Resilience, I wrote about this in a previous post and its connection to adults. Now, I have started to think about how we can support its development in children. Resilience is described as being able to bounce back from stress, challenge, trauma or adversity. To bend and not break. I believe that there are many times when we have felt like wrapping our little ones up in cotton wool. I know I have. We want to protect them from the challenges that navigating, life, school, friendships can present. Of course, it would be great if we could pick them up each time they stumble, yet this would not be helpful to them long term.
Stress is natural, and it can help our children to develop the skills they need to grow and blossom. We can support our children towards developing healthy ways of coping and living by showing them that they already possess the skills to manage. Coaxing these skills out with dialogue, using open questions, rather than answering for them; will allow your child to engage with parts of their brain to do with problem solving. This is an empowering experience for them and shows them, that they the skills to manage. We can teach our children essential skills by modelling behaviour, by expressing and understanding that you can’t always succeed and that’s ok. Being honest and by sharing what you have learnt from an experience, and by showing how you have bounced back; is a great way to model and teach resilience. Our attitudes and coping skills in life will become a blueprint for how our children will learn.
Here are 5 ways to build resilience in children
Teach them how to reframe challenges
Learning how to reframe challenges in ways that feel manageable, is linked to developing resilience. Reframing is real useful and valuable skill to learn. In times of difficulty or disappointment, it will help them to focus on what they have, rather than what they’ve lost. To build this skill, acknowledge their disappointment, then gently steer them away from looking at what the problem has cost them, towards the opportunities and learnings that it might have brought them.
A positive and supportive relationship with an adult
Considerable research compounds the long held belief, that a reliable and supportive relationship with an adult builds essential coping skills The important factor here is the quality and consistency of the relationship. A child’s developing brain relies upon the consistent “serve and return” interactions that happen between a young child and a primary caregiver. When these interactions occur regularly, they provide the platform that helps build ‘key capacities’, for example the ability to plan, monitor, and regulate behaviour, and adapt to changing circumstances that enable children to respond to adversity and to thrive.
Imitation is such a powerful way to learn, believe it or not our children aim to be like us, they imitate us. You can demonstrate how you manage your own disappointment, by allowing your children, at times, to see you experience emotions is a natural and real part of life. Children will learn and understand that, frustration, sadness, and disappointment are typical experiences that we all go through. When these experiences are normalised, there is a sense of safety and security that in time, will open the way for them to explore, what those experiences mean for them, and experiment with ways to respond.
Build positivity and optimism
This is your opportunity to shine! When life doesn’t go to plan, what do you do? Children tend to mirror behaviour and attitudes whether they are obvious or more subtle. Through positive role models and through practice thinking optimistically, children can learn to conquer obstacles and believe in their ability to face challenges. Parents and teachers play a critical role as children learn different ways to respond to age specific situations.
Learning to do what scares them in a supported environment
Louise Hay has often been quoted as ‘ feel the fear but do it anyway”. Easier said then done sometimes, and especially for our little people. That said, when we support our children to face their fears, we empower them. I find that most children I know will have ideas and answers within them when they are asked to problem solve. Supporting them through a gradual step by step approach will help them to face what scares them, within manageable limits.
So the next time your child is struggling, resist the urge to problem solve for them, think about how you can empower them, how they can solve their own problem.