There are some skills in life that will help us more than others; resilience is one of these. Although we can build resilience at any point in life, it is obviously longer lasting and more beneficial if we can do this as young as possible.
As parents, helping our children build resilience is important for a number of reasons. It provides a coping mechanism for the many challenges ahead as well as protect us from some of the well-documented mental health struggles that can develop at times when we feel overwhelmed.
The good news is that it’s easy to help build resilience in children, here’s a few steps to help develop this.
It is often said that we learn from setbacks. Teach your child to problem solve and you’ll equip them with valuable skills for overcoming challenges. Be on hand to offer them support and guidance, but ultimately, allow them the freedom to problem solve for themselves. This will help grow their self-confidence and build resilience for the next time they find themselves in a challenging situation.
Give them space
Resilience comes from a place of adapting to difficult situations; stress, problems, issues and challenges. In order to equip your child with the ability to build resilience, they first must be exposed to these situations. As such, it’s important at times to stand back and give them space to explore the world, naturally with your guiding hand behind them. Giving your child the space to make their own decisions is also beneficial for their self-esteem.
Children aren’t always aware of the implications of their actions. Help your child to become aware of their own thoughts by asking them to explain their decisions. Not in a critical way, but from a place of interest. You will usually find that they are more than happy to talk about themselves at length.
Some children are braver than others, some are natural risk takers, others prefer the path more travelled. This is part of being individual and having our own personality and quirks. But regardless of this, we all have the ability to stretch ourselves. It’s how we grow and develop and most importantly, it is how we build resilience. Therefore, encourage your child to take the occasional risk and push them to challenge themselves.
Learning from failure
It’s a hard lesson to face, but learning from setbacks and learning from failure is sometimes the only way we can move forward in life. You can support your child through these challenges by asking them to reflect back on how they might do things differently next time.
Praise your child for their efforts and remind them that there’s plenty more opportunities to come. As painful as it feels, this is an important step in building resilience in children.
Don’t give them all the answers
If resilience is about the ability to cope with challenges and bounce back from setbacks, then we have to allow children the freedom to grow. Not giving them all the answers is one of the ways that children are forced to use their cognitive skills to figure things out for themselves. Creating independent thinking is inherent to resilience, and helps children to grow into thriving, well-equipped adults.
Be a good role model
Children learn from the world around them, and as parents we are their first role models.
How we deal with situations will have a knock-on effect on how our children do the same. If you have a tendency to fly off the handle or get angry when you’re frustrated take a step back and think about how this influencess your child.
Develop children’s autonomy
Independence is important for children’s self-esteem. So how can you help them develop autonomy? One such way is by allowing them to make every day decisions, and giving them the freedom and trust to do things on their own.
Don’t over praise
We know that praise is important in building confident individuals. However, too much praise can be counter-productive. The right type of praise needs to acknowledge children’s efforts and hard work, and that isn’t something that you can reward every day. Another consideration is that children are very smart and will know when your comments are insincere.
On that note, keep praise honest. It’s important for your child to feel like they can trust you and that your comments are truthful.
Let them make mistakes
As mentioned, learning from failure is crucial if we want to build well-rounded individuals. As such, allow your child enough space to make mistakes, but with enough support to guide them when necessary.
Encourage risk taking
A bit of risk taking never hurt anyone. If anything, it helps us build our sense of achievement and self-worth, which in turn help with building resilience. Encourage your child to take the right risks – for instance, trying out a new sport, braving a bike without stabilisers and swimming without armbands – of course, only when you feel they are ready.
Help children to keep things in perspective
It’s understandable that there are times when we can all blow issues out of proportion. As a parent, you have the advantage of being able to give your child some perspective. Helping to build their resilience is more than just dealing with the hard times, it’s about manging their overall wellbeing, and ensuring they have a positive mindset when it comes to dealing with challenges.
Provide coping strategies
And finally, giving your child positive coping strategies in place is a valuable life-long skill you can nurture. For instance, if your child has a tendency to be aggressive or get frustrated easily, then helping them to count to ten might be a useful technique.
Each child is different, with his or her own quirks. Recognising their stress points and finding ways to overcome these will go some way in building their resilience. And as a parent, there is no-one better placed than you to develop this.
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