AMONG  many other ideas I've tried during these long months : Letting my children practice phone skills by having them call to order takeout and asking them for help with setting up the W--Fi booster.

In some cases, it would be faster to just do these things without their ''help,'' but I'm doing it deliberately, to benefit my kids.

It might seem like a strange time to ask parents to take a new approach - don't we have enough to juggle?

But focusing on helping our kids develop what psychologists call  ''self-efficacy,'' or a person's belief that they are capable of successfully meeting the tasks or challenges that face them, can yield immediate benefits.

But can small tasks really instill a sense of control right now, in a pandemic? It's possible, experts say, and allowing children to try to meet real-life challenges is the best way for them to build that healthy self-efficacy.

Albert Bandura, the Stanford University psychologist who first developed the concept of self-efficacy in the 1970s, called these important first-person accomplishments ''mastery experiences''.

Lea Waters - professor of positive psychology at the University of Melbourne, Australia, said self -efficacy ''is a primal part of the formula of good mental health, because without that sense of efficacy - 

Without that belief that I can get things done, you can really easily see how a young person or even an adult would not only lose their confidence, but lose their motivation to move forward.

Humans thrive on a sense of control and capability; low self-efficacy, or learned self helplessness, is associated with anxiety, depression, lack of hope and lack of motivation, she said, while higher self-efficacy is associated with life satisfaction, self-confidence, social connection and growth mind-set.

Mastery experiences don't have to be grand accomplishments. Dr. Waters pointed to things as small as kids completing ''a Lego build that was as little bit hard,'' packing their own backpacks or walking the dog by themselves.

''We can spot these things and acknowledge, 'You did that really well; you did that all by yourself,' or  'You didn't need as much help from me this time around,' '' she said.

These successes build up what she called a ''bank account'' of feelings and efficacy for children that they can draw on next time they face a challenge, when parents can remind the child, ''You know last time you felt that way, and then you ended up being able to do it all by yourself.''

Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and author of ''The Happy Kid Handbook,'' said parents should not pile on more responsibilities than a child can handle.

And they should always be attentive to children's health, she added, ensuring that they don't see signs of mental issues that warrant professional support.

Put your children to work : It's healthy.

[This publishing continues to more essays in the days ahead.]

The World Students Society thanks author Sharon Holbrook.


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