You have probably heard about the lost Thai soccer team and their remarkable rescue. Within this incredible story, there is a powerful parenting message that relates to all of us. What must it have been like for these 11-16 year-old boys and their 25 year-old coach to be lost and waiting in the dark, uncertain of their future, and needing to stay calm and unafraid to stay alive? How did they do it? The boys did what all children do in an emergency: they turned to their grown up for leadership and direction. Children do this whether or not their grown up is equipped to handle the situation. They naturally turn to them for guidance and reassurance. The coach gave the boys the leadership they needed. Despite knowing that he had made mistakes and led them into perilous circumstances, and that the future was uncertain, he gave the boys the support they needed to survive and stay calm. He modeled effective parenting: he remained calm, he provided direction, he gave the boys something to do and to think about. He taught them to meditate and organized the little space in which they found themselves; he took charge of the available resources. He parented his team.
As parents, we can find ourselves in situations we don’t immediately know how to handle. Children get hurt, people die, there is a loss, heartbreak, or trauma, and our children turn to us to know how to respond. Outcomes are determined by what we do then. We don’t need to be experts or have all the answers to help our children through an emergency–we need to be calm, reassuring leaders, who act like we have a plan, keep our children focused, and give them something relevant to do. If children feel safe, they can survive almost anything, even being lost in the dark for days and days.