As parents, we are constantly trying to minimize fear and uncertainty for our kids, but are we doing the right thing? How can we manage to provide affection and understanding instead of transmitting anxiety and fear? The answer is to foster their resilience.
We need to understand that we can’t protect our children from all the dangers and disappointments in this world. However, this is not to say that they should go figure everything out on their own. Parents do play an important role in providing children with the tools to navigate life successfully and develop resilience during infancy and adulthood.
What exactly does it mean to be resilient?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is “the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress.” Unlike what most people may think when talking about resilience, these people are not unaffected by adversity, but are instead able to cope and overcome challenges effectively, even coming out strengthened by the events!
Raising resilient children is possible, you just have to foster the skills needed to handle and recover from future hardships. If you provide them with the right tools to respond to stressors and challenges, they will be able to navigate life more effectively.
You can start fostering these skills from an early age, so take advantage of this! The role you play in your child’s early years is very important in promoting these skills. In short, you should provide responsive care and a positive environment for your kid. Even though young children might not be able to express certain feelings with words, they are still aware of their surroundings and can absorb scary events from what they see or from conversations they overhear.
So you should look out for signs of fear and anxiety your little one may show. For instance, has your child become more clingy than usual? Or are they displaying certain behaviors that could be signs of anxiety? Remember to be attentive and use play as a way to help your little one express their fears! The use of art and pretend games are a great way for young children to communicate what they may not be able to put into words.
How to build resilience in your children
1. Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Teach your little one to embrace failure. To do this, start by teaching them that continued effort, practice, and learning are the keys to success! Make sure they don’t see setbacks as frightening, so they can be willing to take risks and try new things!
2. Promote responsibility by giving responsibilities
Avoid preaching, this will not promote responsibility. Instead, provide opportunities for your little one to be responsible. For example, by helping out with certain chores around the house, or by being involved in doing things for others.
3. Instill decision making
Encourage your child to make decisions and let them know you support them. Make them think about different scenarios and possibilities so that if they make a poor decision, you can offer guidance or ask them, “What might happen if we did…”. As your little one grows, you can gently push them to get out of their comfort zone by encouraging them to try out new activities. This will exercise their stress-response system, as any new experience does, such as going to a friend’s house to play for the first time.
4. Teach your little one to make friends and help others
Teach your child how to be kind in order to make friends, and develop the skill of empathy. Build a strong family network to support your child through their disappointments. Having social support strengthens resilience.
5. Create routines
Sticking to a routine can be comforting to children, especially younger ones who crave structure in their lives.
6. Teach self-care
An important way of building resilience in children is being a role model! Teach your little one the importance of making time to eat properly, exercise, and rest. Make sure you provide balance, so they have time to have fun! Organize their schedule in such a way that they always have time to relax.
7. Teach your child to be goal-oriented
Teach them to set goals and then to move toward them. When your little one moves toward that, even if slowly, and then receives praise for doing so, it will make them see what they have achieved so far, instead of focusing on the remaining path. This will help them build resilience to move forward in the face of challenges.
8. Cultivate a positive self-image
When your little one grows older, help them remember how they have successfully handled hardships in the past and make sure they understand that the past difficulties have helped them build the strength to handle future challenges! Self-esteem is key in life!
9. Promote self-discovery
Help your little one see that what they face can teach them what they can do or “what they are made of.” Also, when they face a situation, try asking them “how” questions. By doing so you will teach your child about evaluating options and deciding which is better.
Resilience makes a big difference in people’s lives. Resilient people are healthier, live longer, are happier in their relationships, are more successful in school and work, and are confident enough to explore the world! Don’t forget that family acts as a security blanket, so foster family closeness and quality time and make sure your child receives lots of love and support.