FIVE WAYS TO HELP KIDS BUILD RESILIENCE
Families who are healthy, secure, and warm raise kids who are adaptable, flexible, and ultimately resilient. What does it mean to be resilient?
Resilience is the ability to face or recover quickly from difficult situations. It involves adjusting to hard things. When we experience a failure or a loss, and then allow ourselves to go through it, to struggle, and to receive love and support, we are learning something very important. We are learning how to solve those problems. Going through a situation in real life, or at the very least rehearsing the steps in your mind, allows you to know what to do in the future. This builds resilience.
There are many ways to do this, but here are five ways you can begin to develop resilience in your children:
1 Allow them to experience disappointment and become problem solvers.
You cannot be a resilient individual if you have avoided or been spared from struggles. In fact, it is quite the opposite. By experiencing hard things, and processing our thoughts and emotions, we learn how to solve problems, which builds our resilience. For example, your child says the kids were mean at school. Rather than saying something like, “So sorry. Kids can be mean. You’ll be fine,” you can say: “That must have been hard. It sounds like you felt hurt by that experience. What do you think you can do the next time this happens?” In empathizing with and validating their experiences, your child feels heard and seen. Moving them toward problem solving (after processing those thoughts and feelings), gets them in the mindset to think of ways to get through the tough situation the next time it happens.
2 Change your mindset about rescuing your children.
If our children never experience disappointments or struggles because the adults in their lives are shielding them or rescuing them, they’re not going to be able to develop their own script to know what to do when disappointments occur. It is a parent’s natural instinct to protect their children from emotional or physical harm. However, they also need to learn how to figure things out on their own. Letting them do that communicates to them that you trust they can figure things out. This builds strength and resilience.
3 Create a space for them to feel all their emotions.
Feeling disappointment, frustration, fear, and excitement are all part of the human experience. When adults feel uncomfortable with a child’s emotion, the child learns to feel shame for having that emotion. The wrong message is communicated. Their brains end up being wired for over-dependence on the self. It is important for parents to adjust their expectations about their child’s big emotions. These emotions are developmentally appropriate and expected. When you can sit with them during their tantrum or while processing an unfair experience, they learn to experience emotions such as disappointment and frustration. When Daniel Tiger felt frustrated that he couldn’t visit Prince Wednesday or the bakery, Mom Tiger guided him to learn how to work through his frustration. Children also then learn they will be heard and seen during the process while being supported by the important people in their lives. Knowing your emotions are not the enemy truly builds resilience.
4 Have realistic standards. We can’t be good at everything.
Focus on things they are naturally good at and build up those skills while balancing a growth mindset in the weaker areas. Teach them how to assess their skills and articulate when to ask for help. Don’t forget that both the effort and the process are probably more important than the completion or perceived success. These are all significant in building a resilient child. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses enhances self-awareness and resilience.
5 Make sure they “overhear” you saying great things about them.
This is by far my favorite. When children are going through tough stages and moments in their lives, they often hear a lot of negative feedback from grown-ups. Instead, switch it up and give them opportunities to accidentally “overhear” you saying amazing things about them. Use their name, be specific, and be genuine. Also, be sure they hear it directly from you too. What an amazing boost to know the adults in their lives see them so positively and hold them in such high esteem. That would make anyone feel mighty!