Resiliency is an essential skill to develop and nurture in our children. As parents, our goal is to teach our kids how to manage disappointment, uncertainty, setbacks, and loss.
Over the past year and a half, we went through a global pandemic together with all of the pain, anxiety, and loss that came with it. Throughout life, we all have moments that fall short of our expectations, needs, hopes, and dreams. As humans, we all make mistakes. Resiliency is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties or demonstrating a sense of toughness. As our kids are becoming more independent and growing older, they have the ability to experience all of life’s amazing opportunities and inevitable disappointments.
We can support our kids resiliency development by focusing on a few key areas:
Being able to be fully present with our kids and giving them the space to safely share their thoughts and feelings is one of the greatest gifts we can give them. When we are present with our children providing a supportive, nurturing experience, we are helping them psychologically manage the effects of the stress that comes with difficult moments. Co-regulation, maintaining our emotional regulation while assisting our children in regulating, is a necessary part of development.
Encourage asking for help and problem solving
Resiliency is not about pushing independence. As humans, we are designed to be interdependent and relational. When children are able to discuss their problems, it gives us opportunities to explore problem solving skills, assist with practicing brainstorming skills, and help them make decisions that are born of “wise mind” (allowing space for emotions, considering pros and cons, and making a skillful decision on how to respond). Alternatively, we need to resist our urge to alleviate pain and discomfort, it is important to avoid fixing the situation. We function best as partners in helping our child build a solution to their problem.
Build executive functioning
There are a variety of ways to build the prefrontal cortex and assist in developing awareness of thoughts and feelings as well as increase use of emotion regulation strategies.
- Assist in developing routines for kids
- Encourage opportunities to learn and practice social skills
- Make creative play a priority
- Instill healthy habits such as exercise
- Allow for moments of independence and decision making
Build a sense of competency and mastery
Nurture strengths and skills that your child already has. Honor and highlight moments when your child tries something hard or gives a new challenge their best effort. This is more than giving praise for excelling at a task, this is helping them build their narrative that they can tackle difficult or unique things.
We benefit when we are able to view the glass half full; it’s certainly much better than seeing it as half empty! Slowly introducing other perspectives that allow for a more positive way of assessing the situation can assist our kids with seeing opportunities when disappointment happens. We can encourage our kids to reframe disappointments using this technique. This doesn’t mean invalidating their view; rather, acknowledging that there could be multiple perspectives that are present. Teaching the skill of identifying the gifts in a disappointment is a key skill of resiliency.
Research shows that kids who endorse the idea that people can change over time, both themselves and those around them, experience less stress and anxiety, improved physical health, and increase positive feeling about self.