Resilience is one of the most important life skills and we, as parents, play an essential role in helping our children develop an ability to cope effectively with life’s problems. Here are ten tips to help build resilience in kids.
Model resilience. We all have days where we feel overwhelmed by life’s pressures. You are your child’s primary role model when it comes to demonstrating how to deal with these problems. Children are extremely perceptive and by modelling effective coping strategies (even if you need to draw on your best acting skills) your child can see that it’s possible to bounce back after having a bad day.
Remind your child that things won’t always go their way. As much as we’d like to, we can’t solve all our child’s problems. It is vital that children learn that they don’t always get what they want and don’t try to micromanage their life so that they do - it’s how we deal with life’s detours that really matters.
Empower them to express and deal with their own feelings. Always encourage your child to share their feelings about a problem and take ownership for these feelings - not to blame others. Remind them that sharing feelings is OK and that often it helps make them feel better.
Encourage them to solve their own problems. Look for opportunities to involve your child in the problem-solving process. Chat with them about the different ways a problem can be solved, rather than doing it for them. Role play is a great way to help practise ideas to deal with a problem and can often result in lots of laughs, a momentary distraction from an otherwise serious situation.
Keep your expectations realistic. Building resilience is a process, not a destination, and a child’s coping skills are not equal to that of an adult. Eldest children especially are often burdened with our expectations to behave or react a certain way. Being supportive and empathetic when your child is dealing with a problem is always paramount for a parent, regardless of their age.
Promote social connectedness. Connecting with others effectively promotes resilience and builds a network of support for your child. Talk with your child about what makes a good friend, sibling, cousin or student and support them in behaving accordingly. Promote the development of empathy in your child by first demonstrating it, then using real life situations to practise it with others.
Try goal setting. Help your child to break down problems into small, achievable goals so that they can learn there is a process to dealing with issues and it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Of course be sure to acknowledge any accomplishments along the way.
Promote a positive self-image. Encourage your child to use positive self-talk at every opportunity. A healthy self-esteem is paramount to building resilience and although you can tell your child how wonderful they are, what they tell themselves is much more important.
Remind your child about past successes. Young children live in the here and now and any new problem can be treated like it’s the end of the world. Try to draw on past issues they may have experienced and remind them that they have faced problems before and got through it, so they’ll be able to cope with this one also. Remind your child that their current problems won’t always seem so huge and that each day brings new hope. Encourage them to see the funny side of things. Often humour lightens the load of the heaviest of problems, even if it’s just fleeting.
Seek help when needed. If you feel an issue that’s troubling your child is beyond your parental expertise, always consider outsourcing professional help. If we normalise the act of seeking help when it’s really needed, your child learns that there are people who can teach them specific strategies to deal with more serious issues.
Of course, the greatest way to build resilience in children is to make them feel loved and accepted for who they are. Make your home their ‘soft place to fall’. Keep the lines of communication open at all times and ensure your child knows that they can always rely on you for your support, no matter what.