I'm cold!" "My feet hurt!" "I don't like it!"
Most parents have, with a sinking heart, heard these phrases uttered by their kids during their first few family ski holidays. But fear not. Here are 10 research-based tips for resilience on the slopes that may put an end to the whinging once and for all.
1. Talk up tumbles
First ski trip? Let your child know that they will fall over – a lot. Get them in the mind-set that falling and making mistakes is normal and expected not shameful or embarrassing (and snow can be softer than the school playground).
2. Let them set the pace
Try not to compare your child to siblings or friends. Let them progress at their own pace and resist the urge to correct every mistake. “We rush over to our little ones and tell them they’ve done something wrong. And what’s the lesson we’re teaching?” asks Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit (Vermilion, £20). “Embarrassment. Fear. Shame.” The solution? Show them you can laugh at yourself when you mess up too.
3. 'Fess up to face plants
Help your child to see that everyone experiences setbacks. Talk about your own ski or snowboard disasters and ask the instructor, the chalet host, even lift buddies to share their stories too. Just because kids couldn’t do it today, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to tomorrow.
4. Get the giggles
If your child is losing their nerve (and you’re losing your patience), defuse the tension with laughter. When you laugh, your brain releases feel-good endorphins, your stress response cools and muscles relax. A bit of humour lightens the problem, lessening its hold on you both.
5. Make friends with fear
Acknowledge fear. “If your child says they’re afraid, your only response should be to ask them to tell you about their fear and to ask them what it feels like,” says extreme skier and fear coach Kristen Ulmer. “Resist the urge to tell them there’s nothing to be afraid of. Not only is that not true, but you are shaming them for having fear.”
6. Grow grit
Resilience is like a muscle – you can strengthen it through practice. Encourage children to practise overcoming hurdles in everyday life and if they start to lose confidence on the slopes, remind them of the times they have picked themselves up after setbacks before.
7. And breathe…
When stress levels soar we literally can’t think straight and start to feel out of control. Encourage a “reboot” by breathing deeply for a minute, in through the nose and out through the mouth. This triggers a relaxation response in the body.
8. Help someone else
“When you’re feeling helpless, help someone,” said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. It’s true. Helping others gives you a feeling of control and helps you feel more compassionate to yourself too. Ask your child to help with a younger sibling, friend or even fake the need for some help yourself.
9. Banish their inner bully
“If you wouldn’t let someone say mean things to your best friend, don’t let yourself say them to yourself either,” says Caroline Paul in her new book The Gutsy Girl (£17.99, Bloomsbury UK). When feeling insecure, ask your child what they are telling themselves and help them find three reasons it’s not true.
10. Strike a superhero pose
If all else fails, summon the superheroes by getting your children to strike a power pose. Research shows that adopting a “hero” pose (hands on hips, legs shoulder width apart, head up) boosts self-confidence. “It allows people to be in the moment instead of worrying about what might happen next or what they did a second before,” says Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy.