As parents, it can be difficult to let our children go. We want to keep them safe and help them when we can. But we also want to teach them to be independent and resilient. The good news is that resilience can be nurtured. And the key to learned resilience is for parents to strike a balance between stepping in for support and leaving the kids on their own. That way, children can learn to believe in themselves, gain a sense of belonging and do things for themselves.
Here are a few things you can do to support your children on their road to resilience:
Resilience: How Parents Can Teach Their Children
1. Banish Negative Thoughts
Sometimes your children might interpret an everyday situation with negative thoughts. Si Mun, 32, encountered this very situation in a recent playground visit.
“My daughter came running to me in tears,” she recounts, “telling me that other children didn’t want her to join them. She said they don’t like her, so she must be a bad person. I sought to comfort her and remind her about her friends that she always plays with, and the thought of that helped her to feel better.”
Build your child’s optimism by helping to put a positive spin on their negative thoughts. Change beliefs like, “I am scared” to “I will be with you to help you as it’s your first time.” When they say, “I can never do this,” remind them “You managed to accomplish (something) before, you will be able to do this soon.”
These thoughts and words build resilience, so children are able to look past a negative idea and turn it into positive action. By doing this, they practice adaptability, which will in turn lead them towards confidence and daringness, all of which are pillars of resilience.
2. Bounce Back from Disappointment or Downfall
Not making the school’s football team? Doing poorly in class? Children will have to face many disappointments in their life, but it’s precisely these setbacks that help them to learn how to succeed. It’s all part of learned resilience.
When disappointments happen, you can comfort your child and let them know you understand the pain they are going through. Let them speak their mind, and encourage them to figure out what are his or her next steps. Suggest ideas and offer your help. Teach them that they will not always lose, and that they will have their chance at victory too. It’s all part of raising a resilient child.
When her son did not make the first team in his school’s football team, Corrine, 45, knew how disappointed he was and sought to help him bounce back. “I told him to never give up. He knows how good he is and how passionate he is to play football. As long as he keeps showing the coach what he’s made of, he will have his chance.”
Children who know how to manage disappointments will find it easier to calm themselves and forge ahead with resilience in order to achieve their goals. Finding what it takes to go on takes perseverance, and discovering that they have this ability is one of the first steps in learned resilience.
3. Take Away Frustration
Children experience plenty of frustration as they grow up. With preschoolers, this can be when they are trying to learn new things like reading. With older children, they can find themselves frustrated trying to figure out their math lessons.
It will be most helpful to speak to them when they get frustrated. Try to talk up their strengths, like what they are good at. Acknowledge their challenges, help them to build realistic goals and show your support.
Elizabeth, 52, knows her daughter has a strong passion for the piano but is quick to anger when she doesn’t perform well.
“I play up parts of her performance I felt genuinely sounded great but I don’t overdo it by telling her she’s ready for Asia’s Got Talent. I try to encourage her musical talent and let her know that the process is just as important as the end goal. She tries to take note of her mistakes and corrects them.”
Yes, it can be a steep hill to climb for now, but your children need to know there will always be another day. With every small step, they will be able to overcome their challenges and prove resilient. Again, these are valuable lessons in learning perseverance. Parents, if you want to raise them resilient, these little, daily lessons are so important.
4. Support Change
Life is full of change, and it can be a scary process for your young ones. Even something simple like changing their bedtime routine can cause frustration and confusion.
Help your children cope with changes by giving them the space and time to accept change when they can. When they do want to try something new, encourage them by letting them know you will be around whenever they need you.
When major change happens, such as welcoming a new sibling or moving to a new neighbourhood or state, let your children know about all the positive things that can happen from the change. In the case of moving, acclimatise them to the new community by making your children be a part of the move, like taking them to their new school for a preview visit. This is the sort of support you can provide so your children learn to cope with change and in turn, become more resilient.
Adaptability can be difficult to teach. Being sensitive to changes in your child’s life and supportive when these changes occur are a few of the things you need to remember to raise them resilient.
5. Handle Conflict
Your kids will have disagreements with their siblings and classmates, especially because young children find it difficult to understand the viewpoints of other kids. When an argument happens, you can take your child away from the conflict. Let your child know you understand why they are unhappy, but also emphasise that conflict can be resolved through words, and not through physical fighting.
Audrey, 29, remembers the first time when her daughter was arguing with her cousin about sharing a toy. “I took her aside and spoke to her softly, that she can share the toy with her cousin because she’s a caring little girl that always does nice things for others. Her cousin had also asked nicely if she could play with the toy. Hearing that, she passed the toy over.”
When they are able to handle conflict on their own without resorting to violence, you know they are on their way to learning how to be resilient in future disagreements growing up. Being confident on their own teaches lessons about self-reliance. And together with the other lessons you teach them, they will be well on the road to resilience.
6. Encourage Creativity
It’s important not to spoil your kids and give everything he or she asks for. Instead, it’s better to encourage your child to make do with what she has, think about he and she can work around to come up with their own solution – and praise them for their effort.
Jane’s, 38, daughter was not allowed to buy new clothes for her dolls because they were expensive. While she felt down at first, Jane encouraged her daughter to try and make new doll’s clothes using whatever in the house, like coloured paper and cloth. Not only does her daughter have a variety of doll’s clothes, she’s also so enthusiastic about art that Jane has signed her up for drawing and painting classes.
Resourcefulness is part of building resilience in your child. When the going gets tough, your child will get out there to find what they need in order to resolve the problem at hand. At the same time, he or she is learning how to think out of the box and not be reliant on anyone to work out a solution. It’s a strength that can’t be bought, and helps your child be prepared for whatever life has to offer.
For more information on learned resilience and child resilience theory, visit www.aptagro.com.my.