Be an encourager

By Berny Unruh, K-State Extension
Berny Unruh

During one of our training zooms we were asked “What do our young people need from adults?” The list to choose from included: structure, empathy, rules and consequences, curiosity/learning, someone to listen and a couple of other answers? The presenter reminded us there was no incorrect answer.

The majority of the participants on the zoom responded that young people need curiosity/learning and someone to listen. Over the last ten months I have heard many discussions of what is needed to help our kids build resiliency skills and it is difficult to pinpoint just one thing.

One source that I encourage parents to search for is “Family Engagement 4H1749F” a publication from Michigan State University. The first activity in the booklet is “Building Encouragement”. The author shares “Social emotional health is a critical component of health development for young children. Social emotional development includes the ability to identify and label or name emotions, and find appropriate ways to express or manage those emotions.”

There are many things that your child does well each day. Recognize the good things that they do and point out what exactly they did right. For example: “I noticed that you hung up your coat and put your boots away!” Look the child in the eye and talk to them on their level. Compliment them often and encourage them often. Be careful about trying to teach them a lesson. “I noticed you helped your brother but you did not put your shoes away like I asked”. Avoid the “but”! The author of “Building Encouragement” suggests, “You helped your brother find his shoes. Let’s see if we can find yours together.”

Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs I ever got myself into! I feel like I am still learning and my youngest is now 25 years old. I know that our children still need encouragement. Start when they are young and build a relationship with them so they know they can come to you no matter what the situation is. Every child has their strengths. Work to build on those strengths and over time they will build the resilience to face what the world throws at them.

This sounds easy and I realize it is not so simple. Parents need support, so find a group of strong parents who will support you in this very important job. Encourage each other and build each other up so you are prepared for your parenting challenges.

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at