Resilience is an important life skill. Teaching it to your kids so that they learn to cultivate it within themselves will prove to be of long-term value.
But what does resilience entail? It is the ability to be flexible in the face of change, setbacks, and life’s inevitable challenges. Resilience includes overcoming hardships and worries while still remaining self-assured and content within. Indeed, resilience assists a person in navigating the bumpy road of life in a healthy, meaningful way.
Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child offers these recommendations on how parents can help instill resilience:
Teach your child to be self-sufficient. Give your child tasks to do and complete. Allow him or her to make age-appropriate choices. This gives your child confidence in decision-making. Even better, give your child chores to perform so that he or she learns about responsibility. Partnering the chore system with accountability goes a step further in teaching your child about consequences so that he or she learns to differentiate good from bad outcomes. And, allowing your child to experience consequences encourages him or her to learn from mistakes, ultimately teaching him or her about self-improvement and consistency.
Teach your child how to be resourceful. Create games that encourage your child to brainstorm and think of new ways of doing things. Help him or her see new methods and means of performing tasks, different approaches to situations, even alternative solutions to a scenario. How about asking your child to “work backwards” so that he or she learns to take stock of what is available and then considers how to apply them to the situation. Introduce your child to the skill of improvising, which is an extended form of experimentation. Letting your child be open to new horizons, practices, and systems allows him or her to get out of comfort zones. He or she then can leap into discovery mode with eagerness and curiosity to promote constructive learning. This creativity inspires, thus making your child see possibilities – which is what resourcefulness is all about.
Teach your child to be self-regulatory. As a parent, you always want to guide and encourage your child. One of the ways to teach self-regulation is by letting your child learn the basics of time management. For instance, let your child complete a task in a given time frame. Ask him or her to “remove distractions one by one” or “minimize interruptions” as the task is being completed. Another method to teach self-regulation is instructing your child on how to regulate their emotions in given situations. For example, you can create a game where your child has to “demonstrate” particular emotions as various tasks are being completed. Then, too, you can also create games and/or scenarios that assist in teaching your child about how to learn patience. Besides, self-regulation leads to self-discipline, which is key to developing resilience.
Cultivate a supportive parent-child relationship. Talking and communication is key. Sharing consistently is also vital to strengthening your parent-child relationship. One good way is to ask your child to help you – because finding opportunities to work as a team does wonders for your connectedness with one another. Provide a secure environment for your child – that sense of security gives them well-grounded stability, which boosts their self-assurance and simultaneously deepens the bonds you have with one another. Encourage mutual active listening so that all parties feel heard and understood. Make family life your shared priority and cherish the precious time you have together.
Help your child develop healthy coping strategies. Parents are a child’s first teacher of coping strategies. Parents must therefore be good role models of healthy coping patterns. Discussions about emotions, feelings, thoughts, ideas are also a good start for your child to learn coping skills. Putting emotions into words by describing them to communicate them is a step in the right direction. Conversations about why a child feels an emotion and what to do about it constructively, rather than “ignoring” or “running away” or “silencing” the emotion, helps to minimize upsets and disappointment so that the child can better manage his or her responses to stress. Teach your child that a situation can be interpreted in different ways, and that certain situations can be “reframed” so that they do not deflate one’s emotions. The Mayo Clinic even suggests that one can “challenge negative or inaccurate thinking” by adjusting perceptions, decreasing negative distortion, and minimizing negative self-talk or self-deprecation. Instead, encourage constructive thought and hopefulness. The Mayo Clinic, for one, emphasizes the “Relabel[ing of] upsetting thoughts” to steer one towards healthier thought patterns. Such exercises can help in lessening the power of negative thoughts so that one’s sense of well-being increases, which is a good lesson for parents to instill in their children. After all, while we, as parents, may not always prevent things from going awry where our children are concerned, we can nonetheless assist our children in building their strengths and threshold levels when it comes to coping with any measure of difficulty, adversity, or slight hiccup while still promoting well-being. Having your child become familiar with optimism and the “bright side of things” is healthy for his or her personal esteem.
Give your child opportunities to have perspective in life. Perspective can be defined as a perception, or viewpoint, of events. Having healthy perspective, meanwhile, refers to being able to see thing in an interconnected way. A healthy perspective also can mean being in control of how one responds to events. Perspective can be cultivated by exposing your child to different environments, cultures, books, people, ideas, schools of thought, stances, and angles of references. Sometimes a child’s perspective can be broadened with travel or with time in nature. Perspective is also about critical thinking and cognitive evaluation, particularly since one’s experience of an event relies on his or her attitude and interpretation of the event. Recall philosopher William James and his saying, “… a person can alter his life by altering his attitude of mind.” Consider, if you will, how choosing to view experiences with a positive attitude can lead a person to tremendous personal growth. Hence, examining with a fresh perspective can reveal nuggets of wisdom, which is part of resilience training for children.
Cultivate your child’s ability to adapt to change as well as his or her ability to improvise in the face of change. Change is constant. To prepare your child for our changing world, it is imperative you actively teach him or her about having a positive attitude toward change. That can mean allowing your child to learn how to assess the positives and negatives of a change so that he or she chooses to accentuate the positive aspects of that change. Doing so can be life-enhancing. What a world of difference it makes to have your child react to change by looking forward to new experience with hope and enthusiasm versus feeling anxious and apprehensive about it. Thus, it is far better to have your child learn positive patterns and attitudes toward change so that he or she can become internally tough and thereby more resilient.
Encourage your child’s problem-solving skills. Teach him or her the value of brainstorming and of listing viable solutions and alternatives. Show him or her how to think laterally – by changing the “direction” of thinking, attempting different approaches, and looking for the solution in a unique, even opposite or skewed way for a fresh outcome. Problem-solving can follow a guideline of problem identification (identifying the nature of the problem or defining the problem), structuring the problem (by observation, careful inspection, fact-finding, clarification, formulation, gathering and collating of data, condensing and summarizing, deciding on resources and time), generating possible courses of actions, looking for key components, analyzing the possible courses of actions (discussing the pros and cons as well as consequences and ethics of each option or approach) before selecting the one for implementation, then reviewing the outcomes before starting anew, if needed. Cultivate imagination, creativity, exploration, experimentation, and possibility. Remind your child that trying again is a good thing, that contingencies can be viewed positively, and that both thoroughness and persistence pay off. Practice, practice, practice with problem-solving so that your child gains self-assurance in his or her competency. More importantly, make problem-solving fun.
Help your child become interdependent. Interdependence is a more evolved, higher level than independence. Interdependence blends autonomy with belongingness in a nurturing, meaningful, and resonant way. Interdependence is how all things relate to one another in a balanced, healthy way. Interdependence means your child can be a strong individual who does not sacrifice or compromise on his or her values, and yet still be in harmonious connection to you as a parent and to others in your interdependent unit. All parties contribute and collaborate. Harmonious, balanced reciprocity is present. The entire interdependent unit capitalizes and optimizes on each person’s unique skills and capabilities. Interdependence is mutually beneficial and positively symbiotic. Interdependence involves mutual respect and mutual nurturance.
Practice gratitude. For both parent and child, tune into one another. Invest in quality time together so that the language of love is understood and felt by all parties. Give experiential gifts, and not just materialistic stuff. Encourage the development of a heightened sense of compassion and especially empathy. Model and teach gratitude by expressing it mindfully in words and action. You can even play the Gratitude Game as a family – (1) talk about the best parts of the day, (2) discuss what one is grateful for on that particular hour or day, (3) demonstrate how one would act to show gratitude, (4) focus on what is positive about a particular event or occurrence, and (5) cover any other aspect of gratitude that can be felt or demonstrated. Show your child how to appreciate the goodness all around, even encourage him or her to think gratefully. And, remember to teach your child to say, “Thank you.”