Our world is a scary place, and it seems to get scarier by the day. We are bringing our children up in a time with so much adversity and turbulence. We want to protect our children and help them thrive every way we can, but how? Research shows one of the best ways to help our kids is to raise them to be resilient.
What is resilience? The American Academy of Pediatrics says resilience is ‘the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances’. It is a trait that allows children to prosper in this ever-changing world by handling challenges or perceived setbacks in a healthy way.
People who are resilient are
- Better able to handle disappointment
- Learn and grow from challenges and hardships
- Cope with loss
- Adapt to change
Who doesn’t want that for their child, right!? Resilient children are better able to handle life’s stress and succeed in spite of opposition. The challenges we will face raising children will continue to change, and so will the challenges our children face. The one thing we can do is make sure we have given our kids the tools they need to be able to navigate life’s challenges. Skills like this develop at a young age which is why it HAS to be taught and nurtured NOW.
How do we teach our kids to be resilient? Here are some steps that will show you how, download the cheat sheet here
- Show your children unconditional love. Research shows this is the most important factor in determining a child’s ability to be resilient. This doesn’t mean blind acceptance though, it means being the kind of parent who responds sensitively and consistently to your children’s needs. It means showing your children you will always be there for them. This allows children to build a sense of security and trust in the world. Unconditional love allows children to feel safe exploring and overcoming obstacles, allowing them to develop their skills and build confidence.
- Create a safe space to express themselves. Designate the house as a safe environment where children can come to the family during times of need without fear of reproach. Encourage open expression of emotions and facilitate conflict resolution to encourage children to learn how to resolve problems in a positive way.
- Teach your children problem solving skills. Sit down and help your child identify what the problem is that needs to be addressed (many times children do not know what is bothering them without self-reflection). Next help brainstorm possible solutions before they act, exploring the pros and cons to each solution together. Avoid jumping in and telling your child what to do or giving a solution, you will robbing your child of the opportunity to practice problem solving. The key is to let them think through the problem and get creative. Ask questions to facilitate the process like ‘what are some things you can do about this?’ or ‘what would happen if you did xyz?’
- Let them make their own mistakes. We cannot protect our kids from all of life’s ups and downs, as much as we wish we could. Children who live sheltered lives are kept from making mistakes and then learning from them. Overcoming challenges on their own allows children to gain confidence in their abilities and feel they have control over their situation.
- Build your children up. Help children recognize their personal strengths, allowing them to feel competent. When you praise your child try to be specific and make it relevant to the specific achievement. Make sure you avoid generalizing when a mistake has been made by focusing on the specific incident instead of making them feel like they ‘always’ get into trouble or are not good at something.
- Hold your children accountable. Encourage children to make decisions and hold them accountable for the outcomes. Do not give children a pass-like calling in sick for them when they didn’t finish a school project. Expect your children to put the effort in. Make them take responsibility for what they did or did not do and face the consequences, because the real world has consequences.
- Do not expect perfection. Avoid asking children to take on more than they can handle. Remember, children grow and develop at different speeds. Praise effort instead of just the outcome, for example ‘I really like how hard you worked on your art project’ instead of ‘good job for getting an A on your art project’. Keep yourself from comparing sibling’s abilities or making a child feel he or she should be more like a sibling.
- Be a moral role model. Demonstrate the behaviors you want your children to copy. Explain to your children the difference between right and wrong, while explaining the rules are not black and white but need to be assessed based on the circumstances. Show your children how to treat others with respect and kindness and how their behavior affects others.
- Help children learn to cope with stress. Teach your child positive coping techniques such as deep breathing, burning off negative energy through exercise, or writing in a journal. Model positive coping techniques yourself, remember they are always watching and learning from us. Remember, when kids act out they are usually trying to alleviate negative feelings so try to get to the bottom of the behavior by figuring out what might be going on that is making them feel stressed.
- Teach children they can make a difference. Donate your time, money, or items others need in front of your children to show them what they can do to make an impact and help those less fortunate. Teach your children how to think of others and empathize with their situation by asking your children to put themselves in other’s shoes (how would you feel if xyz happened to you?). This encourages children to want to help others in the future and realize they are fortunate.
- Help children realize change is inevitable. Encourage them to look for ways to learn and grow from new situations. Help them embrace the positives in any situation, always looking for the good that can come with change. Many people come out of change stronger, the key is to look for ways to grow from adversity and hard times.
- Emphasize control. Stressful situations will happen but we can always control how we interpret and respond to the situations. Encourage children to take action, no matter how small, to gain a sense of control over a stressful situation. Help them understand that when something is out of our control worrying about it will not change the outcome for the better, it will only make them more upset or anxious.
Get your free cheat sheet on how to raise resilient children here
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