How do we help our kids bounce back from life’s ups and downs?
These days we hear a lot about resilience … and how it’s important to raise resilient children. But what is resilience and why is it so crucial?
Resilience refers to a child’s ability to cope with life’s swings and roundabouts, and spring back from the inevitable challenges they experience during childhood – such as moving to a new house, changing schools, exam stress, dealing with divorce or the loss of a loved one. Growing resilience helps children not only deal with current challenges they are facing but gives them the emotional toolkit to deal with hurdles later in life, during teenage years and adulthood.
Although we can’t change the personality type we are born with, as parents, carers and teachers, we can help children to develop important skills, behaviours and attitudes to build their emotional resilience.
With Queensland Mental Health week focused on mental, physical, social and spiritual wellbeing, Life Education Queensland looks at five simple ways to help your child build resilience now and for the future.
Our children are growing up in a changing world, faced with a barrage of news headlines about climate change, cyberbullying and a volatile 21st century job market. But our kids also deal with everyday disappointments – such as falling out with a friend, losing their soccer match or getting into trouble at school. Research has found that optimistic people tend to be more resilient, so it’s worth trying to encourage your child to look for the silver lining in negative situations. It doesn’t mean pretending nothing is wrong. You can still acknowledge their concerns, fears and disappointments, but encourage your child to be adaptive and embrace change. Suggest a different way of looking at things that helps them focus on the positive rather than their worries or what has been lost.
For example: ‘‘I know you are upset that Jack is spending more time with Nicholas. Could you try spending lunch breaks with some of your other friends for the time being?”
Parents and significant adults have a big impact on how a child processes their experiences. It’s perfectly human to express frustration, sadness and disappointment at various times, and it’s healthy for children to see us experiencing these authentic emotions. However, we can try not to make mountains out of molehills in everyday situations such as missing a deadline or having to stand in the grocery queue. By demonstrating positive coping skills to children, we teach them valuable skills about dealing with failure, putting problems in perspective and taking hurdles in our stride.
For example: ‘‘I’m disappointed I’ve been made redundant from my job, but as a family, we will manage, and I know something even better is just around the corner.”
We all know the saying, a problem shared, is a problem halved. Kids do well when they feel supported. While it’s great to foster inner strength and self-reliance, research suggests that children who have a supportive relationship with at least one caring adult are better able to develop vital coping skills. This can be a parent, a coach or a teacher. The presence of an empathetic and supportive adult can help children process their feelings and cope with the effects of stress. So, cultivate a sense of belonging among friends, family and community.
Although it’s tempting to rescue our children from difficult situations, allowing them to solve problems for themselves, make their own decisions when appropriate and tackle new challenges builds confidence, self-esteem and resilience. It’s important to encourage children to take on responsibilities and develop a sense of autonomy and embrace calculated age-appropriate risks. Even simple tasks like letting a child feed the family pet, walk the dog, nurture a vegetable garden or pack their own bags for school camp, helps them develop a sense of self-mastery.
‘For example: ‘‘I know you are finding this assignment a bit tough, but if you do the recommended reading, you will find it much easier to write the essay.”
Just like adults, children need time out to daydream, be creative, listen to music and relax. Teaching children a few basic techniques related to breathing, mindfulness and meditation can be beneficial in dealing with stress or a busy schedule or distracting them from everyday anxieties. Likewise, exercise has a positive impact on both the body and mind and our ability to cope with stress. So, encourage kids to get outside and kick a ball, shoot some hoops, make up a dance or climb a tree. Not only will they have fun … you’ll be helping to build a happier, more resilient child.