In my work with children and teens, I am spending more and more of my time focusing on building resilience. By this, I mean that I am trying to help children build coping skills to face every-day challenges. My goal, in a way, is to "inoculate" kids against the much bigger challenges we all face in life by seeing that they can cope with a bad grade on a test, a fight with a friend, or.....a snow-storm.
I am concerned with the widespread panic that seems to happen these days when even a drop of snow is coming. This weekend, we were expecting a bit of snow in suburban Philadelphia. Our school pancake breakfast was canceled, as were swim lessons. What if someone falls? What if a car skids? What if we can't get to the store for a day and we're hungry? Oh my!
This is in sharp contrast to my childhood in Toronto. I don't recall having snow days. I do recall walking home from school in 1st and 2nd grade in blizzards, chaperoned by my sister who was only three years older than me. The worst thing that ever happened to me was that my boot fell off in the deep snow and my foot got wet.
At our elementary schools, children do not have recess if it is below freezing and even above freezing, are not allowed to leave the paved surfaces. They do not want the children to get wet or throw snowballs at each other. At the school I attended in Toronto, kids are outside at recess building cross country skis out of plywood boards and having the time of their lives.
Can snow and ice be dangerous? Sure. But, I fear we are raising a generation of weather-phobic kids. Perhaps it is okay for them to go outside at recess and be cold and then come inside and see that their bodies do a very good job of warming up. It's a great lesson in social skills for a bunch of kids to work together on building a snowman at recess time. It might be okay for kids to be responsible for bringing a change of clothes to school and switching out their pants after recess if they are wet. What about walking to school on a snowy day? This could show kids that their bodies can quite impressively handle a cold walk, and wow, might even be more capable than a car!!! And hey, how about shoveling? Perhaps dangerous for a 70 year old guy with heart disease but for some healthy youth? It's great fun. Kids feel a super feeling of accomplishment from helping to shovel the driveway or shoveling for an infirm neighbor. In fact, I am going to join my kids on the driveway right now......
I am a licensed psychologist working with kids, teens, and adults with anxiety disorders.