By Rachelle Matheson
What is resilience? It is the ability to ‘bounce back’ following a disappointment or adverse event. A child with good resilience generally has good social and emotional competencies for their age that help them name their emotions and their feelings, show good problem-solving capabilities and generally make good decisions.
There have been many studies and research carried out over the years on resilience, but much of this has resulted in contradicting information. Common sense tells us, however, that resilience is linked to a sense of self-worth. The small interactions we had with our parents as we were growing up, layer upon layer over time, have built our feelings up to the point that we felt valued, listened to and heard.
Because we live in a world where people are becoming busier, however, children are not allowed to be children for very long and are under tremendous pressure to ‘be mature’ and to ‘grow up’. This may mean they may not get the same time or opportunity as they may once have to develop emotional maturity. This is when certain psychological factors such as resilience can become a problem.
Nowadays in most families, both parents must work, so less time is spent on parenting and stress factors can kick in for all parties. This can have a flow-on effect onto children as we lose the all-important ‘time’ factor which is critically needed to help raise strong and resilient children.
The great thing about resilience is that it is something that children can learn. With guidance, support, and most importantly love and connection, you can encourage the growth of resilience in children. Here are five ways you can help children build resilience.
1. Be Present
Our children need us to be there in every sense of the word. They need us to be present with them, which can be hard to do, but it is imperative that we hear them and make sure that they know they are being listened to.
You can do this by really engaging with them when communicating. Stop what you are doing, get to their level, physically turn towards them and make eye contact. This is not only important with children but it’s actually a critical factor of communication in any relationship.
If you are busy and really can’t stop what you are doing then you can tell them that you want to listen to them and give them your undivided attention because you really want to hear what they have to say, but you just have to finish off doing what it is you’re doing. Just don’t leave it too long before you do turn to them.
Get rid of the distractions. Turn off your phone, step away from the screens and listen to them. Really listen….and this applies to children of any age. Whether they are coming to you to tell you a made-up story or something that happened to them that day, listen.
2. TIME equals LOVE
Listen to the language you are using. How often do you hear yourself saying ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I haven’t got time at the moment’? If your children hear that a lot, then they are getting the message that they are not important and that whatever it is that you are doing is more important than them.
When our children have our undivided time and attention, they will feel important, loved and worthy. Make sure you schedule in one-on-one time with them too, as this can quite often be the most important way to show them our love – especially in a world now where time is the most precious commodity we have.
The value they gain during this time is immeasurable, and it also gives you the opportunity to connect with them on a level that reaches far beneath the superficial level. But it’s not all supposed to be serious – hang loose with them. We don’t always need an agenda or to be doing something ‘important’. Take time to just hang out and be present and see what happens and where the conversation goes.
3. Growth mindset
We can say things to our children with such great meaning and good intentions that we are not even aware of how it can be restricting to them. In a fixed mindset you’ll hear things like ‘I can’t do this”, ‘this is stupid, it’s too hard’, or ‘I’m no good at this’ and this implies that the child is not seeing any option other than failure.
We know this to be detrimental to an outcome of success as there is no room for other possibilities, whereas with a growth mindset, you’ll likely hear comments such as ‘oh that didn’t work, I wonder what it is I need to do different next time’, ‘I can always learn’ or ‘What am I missing, what do I need to do now?’ This allows room for growth, and room for improvement, and helps that person see that there are other possibilities to every challenge or event.
Regardless of your child’s age, autonomy is a huge part of allowing our children to grow up with their own sense of self and self-identity, and adds to a child’s resilience. All too often, we parents feel the need to control our children, and we feel they must pay attention and do as we say. But at what cost?
Whilst our children need to have rules and boundaries, are we need to ask: are we giving them enough flexibility to learn for themselves about what is acceptable and what is not? Are we giving them enough choices and allowing them to decide for themselves where possible so that they can learn about making decisions? Are we allowing them to experience the emotions that come when things don’t turn out the way they expected? Are we allowing them to bounce back from adversity or are we controlling the outcome because it’s easier that way?
Instead, ask your child how they are feeling about what a situation means to them and help them work out a way around their predicament. Acknowledge their feelings, let them experience what they are feeling, and work with them to help them find the strategies to work their way through those emotions and come out with a solution.
5. Role Modelling
When our child is being challenging with their behaviour. it’s easy for us to lose our cool and all too often, we end up responding with anger. I know it’s easier said than done, but you are the adult here and you need to stay in control of your own emotions and respond to childlike behaviour with adult-like maturity.
If we shout angry words when we have lost our cool, it can make our child feel unsafe, uncared for and unheard. It’s important to remember that challenging behaviour (outside of diagnosed mental disorders) is generally born out of some unfulfilled need our child has.
How we respond to life’s challenges will, over our child’s informative years, be passed on to them, so show them how it’s done. Show them it’s okay to mess things up, it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to not have all the answers, and it’s okay to apologise.
These are just five ways to help start building your children’s resilience. If you would like to find out more, head to www.fusioncoachingandcounselling.com.au
Rachelle Matheson is the founder of Fusion Coaching and Counselling and is a master practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, and professionally trained counsellor.
Image source: Pixabay