Resilience is a behavior that is learned through examples and lessons. It is the ability to adapt, cope, and move through everyday life – things such as stress, adversity, anxiety, uncertainty, tragedy, and threat.
Resilience does not mean that children are not going to be
experiencing difficulty or stress – it means that they will have the tools to
help them navigate these experiences when they do come up.
Let’s talk about some
ways to teach, model and help our children fill their toolbox.
relatedness are key ingredients in helping our children be resilient.
We are all wired for
connection – it is a basic human need.
Helping our children relate to others of all ages is important in
giving them the tools necessary to cope with difficulties. By helping our
children build connections, we give them the opportunity to invite new
perspectives into their lives. Skills such as learning how to be a good friend,
learning to share toys and food, how to listen to others are all important. Are
you modeling these things in your own life?
Build skills in
empathy, compassion, and understanding.
Also important in fostering resilience is empathy, compassion, and
understanding. When children understand how to be compassionate, empathetic and
understanding with others – younger or older siblings, friends, family members,
and even people of authority, they are building skills necessary to be
resilient when facing adversity.
There are simple things we can encourage children to do, or demonstrate for them, which can help them build these skills. Maybe they share a toy, see a sad friend and offer a hug, hold the door for someone who has their hands full. When you see your child demonstrating these traits, point it out! By sharing what you see and offering them the space to own it, you are contributing to a positive feedback loop. If given the opportunity to be praised for these positive traits, they will continue to display them.
Crucial in reducing stress in children is having the familiarity
and predictability of routines. If you do not currently have routines in place
for morning and evenings, after school or nap/bedtime… think of how you can
bring routine into different parts of daily life.
Teach responsibility for their belongings, being responsible for their toys, clothes, hygiene, and pets help them to grow and learn. Model this in your life too by demonstrating accountability for your belongings and actions.
Give kids space and independence to try new things, even the things that might be tough for them. Offer space and encouragement for them to try, and be there for them when the outcome is different than they expected. By showing your child that an unexpected outcome is not necessarily a bad thing, they are better equipped to handle stressful or uncertain situations. This gives them more tools in their toolbox.
experiences to your child
Give them the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and experience something new: perhaps a new skill, a new sport, or a new friend or playgroup. Experiencing something new and unfamiliar teaches our kids that the unfamiliar is not necessarily bad. When they see that something they were unsure of becomes something they enjoy, they learn to fear the unknown less. This is where the magic happens.
Patience is an
important tool for your children
Offer kids the opportunity to wait for things (within reason) – we
sometimes get nervous that our children can’t wait, but do we give them the
opportunity to try? Teaching kids how to patiently wait in line, wait for food
in a restaurant, or wait to arrive at your destination in the car (without constant entertainment) helps
them to learn self-control and self-regulation when it comes to their own
behavior. Patience can be hard for many kids; demonstrate and model this for
them, and discuss it openly. The more exposure they have to the concept, the
easier it will be for them to learn this skill.
Stay true to your family values
A child does not need to have everything they ask for, especially if it does not speak to you. Kids need to experience rejection and the word “no” in order to build resilience. They can be disappointed, and likely will be, but we don’t want to step into the victim mentality. Don’t feed into the “woe is me” mentality in your own life or theirs. It is important to encourage kids to have the strength to move through whatever comes their way. If we rescue our kids every time an undesirable circumstance arises so that they don’t have to experience the real world, we are doing a disservice. It is important to learn that while life isn’t always fair, these situations offer us the opportunity to learn and grow.
Teach and encourage
your child to identify struggles and challenges, and give them the opportunity
to overcome them
Resist the urge to immediately rescue your child (unless they are in danger) every time they face a challenge. When children are struggling to do something (such as putting on clothes, using a spoon, or stacking blocks), or dealing with something tough (such as receiving a bad grade, not making a team they tried out for, etc.), it is important that they see they can grow from these experiences. Letting kids struggle is important. Validating their emotions and empathizing with them. We as parents need to know when to step back and allow our children to face the challenges that come their way while always holding space with compassion and ready to have an open conversation about feelings. By communicating with our children about what they are experiencing, and offering positivity and encouragement in both identifying struggles and coping with them, we are building resilience and character.
Allow kids to feel and to share feelings, and accept whatever emotions they have. You don’t need to paint a rosy picture, just sit with them and let their emotions be whatever they are. Teach them how to share their feelings, and offer ideas through discussion to help them move through tough these uncomfortable emotions and cope with what is upsetting. Don’t let your own fear get in the way. This is an excellent opportunity to be a good role model, share your own emotions and feelings, and show lots of love, compassion, and empathy to your kids.
What does this all look like for you? How do you model these things in your own life already, and where do you hope to improve?