When I think about my childhood, I often see it through a soft-lighted filter. I remember fond memories of carefree summer evenings playing flashlight tag with friends. While this is certainly a part of my younger years, it doesn’t account for other memories of worrying about homework, misunderstandings with peers, or the questions of inadequacy that plagued me from time to time. These are uncertainties that are part of growing up in a complex world. The truth is, at times, childhood can be anything but carefree. The ability to thrive despite these challenges arises from developing skills of resilience.
Resilience skills can be learned
Raising resilient kids means raising kids who are independent, adaptable, confident, curious, and patient. Teaching resilience is critical to the long-term well-being of kids, but it must be offered with emotional support and responsive parenting — otherwise, kids could be prone to experiencing debilitating anxiety, or struggle to succeed.
Tips For Fostering Resilience In Your Child
A common finding in resilience research is the power of positive relationships, most notably, within the family circle. Create time and opportunities to send the message that your child is more than their accomplishments. Listen deeply and be attentive when in conversation. This will increase the likelihood that your child will reach out for help or guidance when the need arrives.
Strength and growth come from learning and change. Change is inevitable. While your child may need time to process disappointment, you can also help them recognize ways to bounce back and recalibrate. Help your child develop the ability to be flexible with change by finding opportunities to discuss benefits to alternative plans and build in “plan B’s.” For example, if your child doesn’t make the club soccer team, what else might they now have time for instead?
Engage in opportunities to “give back.”
Research studies have found that altruistic emotions and behaviors are associated with greater well-being, health, and longevity. Volunteering provides opportunities to be part of a larger community, strengthens social relationships, increases gratitude, builds useful skills, and fosters feelings of empowerment. Find age-appropriate volunteer work, enlist your child’s help with a sibling, or ask for assistance with tasks at home.
Set SMART Goals
Benjamin Franklin once said, “When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” Teach your child how to not only set reasonable goals but how to take the steps towards accomplishing them through the Acronym SMART:
Establishing achievable goals will help your child build confidence and keep the motivation to move forward in the face of challenges.
Teach your child self-care
Children, just like adults, benefit greatly from consistent efforts of self-care. Self-care is necessary to promote introspective awareness and recognition of physical and emotional needs. Without this awareness, your child will struggle to recognize what they need to effectively handle future stressors. Self-care includes making time to eat properly, exercise, and get sufficient sleep. It also means finding time to have fun and participate in activities they enjoy.
Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook
Some situations are not only painful but unavoidable. Help your child look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. First, be empathetic to their pain and position, and then consider discussing the bigger picture. Explore the “rainbows” that may pop up after the rain. There is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good.
We can’t protect our kids from all of life’s storms. But by teaching skills of resilience, your child will be able to take their struggles, learn and grow from them, and bounce back stronger.