We all face difficulties in our lives. Children are not immune to this. Building resilience in our children is vital to their future wellbeing. But what exactly is resilience and how do you foster it in children?
What is resilience?
Resilience refers to a child’s ability to overcome or bounce back from anything they find challenging. Being resilient does not mean not experiencing any stress or difficulty in life. As we know this is simply not possible. Rather being resilient is knowing how to cope when these situations arise. Resilience can apply to simple everyday things such as forgetting your lunchbox right through to more challenging life events such as a serious accident or childhood abuse.
Some of us are naturally born to be more resilient. But the good news is, if we were not born that way, the skills of resilience can be learned and applied to help us succeed in life.
How do we build resilience?
Building resilience comes through the development of key social and emotional skills. Listed below are 6 key tips for ensuring your children develop resilience.
1. Teach problem solving and don’t provide all the answers
Problem solving is a skill. Some of us are better at it than others. But it can be taught. Sit down with children and brainstorm solutions to a problem, no matter how crazy and then evaluate the merits of each idea. Choose the best option, try it out and evaluate the outcome. If need be try another option.
Children cannot learn this skill if we jump in and try and solve all their problems for them. Take the time to guide them and model problem solving rather than just giving answers.
2. Let kids make mistakes and take risks
There is great value in making a mistake, provided you take the time to learn from it. Children who never have the opportunity to make a mistake do not get the chance to learn and to grow. But to allow our children to make mistakes we must also allow them to take risks. Risks need to be calculated and age appropriate. For instance, if you child refuses to put on a jacket on a cold day, allow them to take the risk of being cold and uncomfortable and to make this mistake.
3. Teach skills which may be missing
Some times we make the assumption that children just know how to do things. Often our children can pick up skills through observing others, but sometimes they need to be explicitly taught. Take greetings and farewells as an example. Some children easily understand the importance of saying hello and goodbye. Others need to be instructed on how to do this.
Take some time to observe your children’s skills in different areas and see what they might need some more assistance with.
4. Ask how questions
Asking how questions can be extremely useful for uncovering skills our children may be lacking and also for understanding their view of the world. For instance if a child has arrived home late instead of asking why are you late? For which you are likely to get an answer such as I was too busy playing with my friends, you can ask How did you decide when it was time to come home? How will you improve on this next time?
When you get an ‘I don’t know” answer to a how question it can be a sure fire sign that there is a skill that is lacking which you may need to teach them.
5. Teach children how to manage their emotions
Children need to learn that all emotions are important and valid. Showing children that we understand their feelings is the first step in teaching them how to regulate their feelings. We are not born knowing how to manage feelings. Again it is a skill that must be taught. Inadvertently as parents we can teach our children the wrong message about emotions by the way we choose to interact when our children experience a particular feeling
We should always aim to validate emotions before jumping into problem solving. This helps children to feel understood. For instance “I can see you are feeling really disappointed that you dropped your ice-cream. How do you think we can solve this problem?’
Being resilient does not mean you do not feel emotions. Rather it is that you can ride out the wave of an emotion without feeling as though you will be washed away.
6. Model resilience
Children are always watching and learning from their parents. One of the best ways to teach them to be resilient is to model it in ourselves. We can do this by openly:
- Using positive self-talk and self-encouragement e.g. I can get through this
- Expressing thoughts and feelings and not push strong/difficult feelings away
- Using strategies to manage our emotions (e.g. breathing, relaxation, physical activity)
- Demonstrating perseverance
By helping children to become resilient they will have a degree of flexibility and acceptance when it comes to events they may encounter in life. Resilient kids become resilient adults, able to manage the many challenges that life may throw their way.
If your child is struggling with being resilient it may be worth seeing a psychologist. At Cassidy Psychology we also offer a group program to assist children to develop their resilience. Click on the link below to find out more or call us on 6381 0071.