It’s important to teach children from an early age how to manage their emotions and bounce back from any positive or negative moments that they’re faced with. While we may want our little ones to have a carefree upbringing, children at some point, do meet challenges and adversity. Being able to cope with those situations in a healthy way will benefit your children for a lifetime.
Being able to positive self-talk, openly express your emotions, use age-appropriate calming strategies, and generally coping with whatever life throws at us, are all part of a jigsaw puzzle called ‘resilience’. Resilience can change and depend on what is happening at a particular point in time – if you have multiple negative stressors at a vulnerable stage in your life, you can be less resilient.
So why is resilience an important skill to develop? Well, it has been found that people who are resilient, or who have good coping skills are healthier, live longer, have happier relationships, are more successful at school and work, and are less likely to feel depressed. The good news is that our capacity to be resilient develops as we age and experience life’s ups and downs. Therefore, by preventing children from experiencing any challenges and disappointments, we are actually preventing them from developing resilience.
People who are resilient, or who have good coping skills are healthier, live longer, have happier relationships, [and] are more successful at school and work
Helping children develop resilience involves the following:
Safe and caring relationships within the family
- Children do best when they feel loved, understood and are protected from harm. Positive daily interactions with the important people in their lives helps them have confidence to explore their environment, form other caring relationships and ask for help when they need it.
Being a positive role model
- Young children in particular, copy what adults say and do. When parents and other significant adults handle stressful and challenging situations with resilience, this also teaches children resilience. Being a positive role model also includes taking care of your physical and mental health, reaching out to social networks and community resources, and being mindful and present in the moment.
When parents and other important adults handle stressful and challenging situations with resilience, this teaches children resilience.
Good sleep, good nutrition and opportunities for lots of movement and play
- Children thrive when they know what to expect so family rhythms around sleeping and eating can help. Not getting enough sleep and poor nutrition negatively impact children’s ability to learn and regulate their emotions. Play and movement is how children learn about themselves and about how the world around them works. Outside, nature play in particular, is highly beneficial for children.
Play and movement is how children learn about themselves and about how the world around them works.
Labelling your own emotions as well as your child’s
- This helps children use words rather than their bodies when they are feeling frustrated or challenged; and also helps them develop empathy over time for other people’s feelings.
Developing a growth mindset
- Children who are resilient believe that they, and not their circumstances, affect their achievements. Adults can help develop a growth mindset by commenting on the process, rather than the end result, encouraging children to problem solve by asking “what if” questions and conveying to children that mistakes (and failure) are part and parcel of learning.
Providing opportunities for your child to practice waiting and restraint
- This can be done in an enjoyable and fun way – play games that require turn taking, or sing rhymes and counting songs about waiting, and put in place rituals that require them to wait, eg. only giving them pocket money once a week, or make them wait until the holidays before visiting a fun park.
Opportunities for learning and practicing life skills
- This involves providing opportunities for children to have responsibility for small tasks that allows them to contribute to family life; providing time and opportunity to practice self-care (getting dressed, going to the toilet unaided, feeding themselves). All learning takes time and requires a lot of patience and energy from involved adults. Development of self-care skills increases self-confidence and self-esteem. Time spent on supporting this aspect of development impacts on their dispositions, attitudes and motivation in many areas.
Supporting children during stressful times
- Adults do this by facilitating problem solving steps to work through a situation positively, teaching strategies to calm down and relax (relaxation breathing) and chatting about what happened afterwards – which helps to reinforce learning and remind children that things turned out alright in the end even though it was a stressful event
Developing a positive outlook
- A positive outlook builds hope and can change a challenging situation into a more manageable one. Help children develop a positive outlook by being a positive role model, encouraging the use of humour to lighten a situation, thus teaching them that challenges are an opportunity to learn and grow. Spending time in nature and finding meaning in things that happen is a wonderful opportunity to help children develop.
Building resilience starts in infancy and continues throughout our lives
Parents have the biggest role to play in helping their children develop resilience. However, parents are not alone, other adults in their child’s life such as teachers and other relatives, plus community support systems and resources also play a significant role.
For more information visit: WiringKids on 0447 648 044 (Julie) or 0402 668 752 (Wendy) or visit www.wiringkids.com.au