Your child’s resilience is influenced by two things; the individual characteristics they were born with and the environmental influences around them.
As a parent there are five areas to focus on when you’re building a child’s resilience, these are:
- Providing education about resilience.
- Building strong and supportive relationships.
- Working on being responsible and independent.
- Developing their emotional intelligence and coping strategies.
- Creating supported and challenging, risk-taking opportunities.
Imagine if a teacher gave every student in their class a pack of playing cards and asked them to build a house. We all know how frustrating this can be, as they keep tumbling down. Put a different hat on now, and imagine you are an observer sitting quietly in the corner of that classroom. I want you to consider how each of the children is learning, adapting and reacting after each tumble of the cards.
Think about these questions:
- How many times does each child try before they gave up?
- Would they construct their card house the same way each time or change it up?
- Do they copy their friends?
- Would they get frustrated, act out, get upset with themselves or yell at their friends or their teacher, when the cards tumble?
- Would they laugh every time the cards fell down?
- Would they celebrate each time a new level of the card house went up?
- Would they partner up and work together to pool their intellect and resources?
- Do they appear to be having fun or feeling anxious?
- Do they want to win and build the biggest and best house first, or are they happy to plod along and build the perfect house with every meticulous step?
- Are they simply giving up after their first attempt, thinking it’s just too hard?
- Do they start knocking other student’s card houses down creating mayhem and upset?
You can learn a lot about resilience from watching children build card houses, can’t you?
I wonder what your child would do? Do you think they would react in one of the ways above?
Resilience is not a static emotion, it can vary; hour to hour, day-to-day and week to week; depending on what else is going on in our lives. A child who learns differently and is struggling at school can often have low levels of resilience.
They may feel like a duck swimming, trying to remain calm on the surface all the while paddling like a mad person underneath.
If you have a child or a student who needs a resilience boost, here are seven ways you can help them:
Look for the positives
Having a glass half full is so much better than having a glass half empty. Positives can be found in everything. Encourage your child to see what they have achieved, rather than what they haven’t.
“I am hopeless at school”, could become, “Even though reading is a challenge, I’m really good at sport and music.”
Make a plan and set goals
Setting small achievable goals that children can reach easily, builds confidence, and the more confidence grows, the more their resilience will grow.
Setting big goals to start with, is often a trap we fall into as adults.
It only takes one small thing to go wrong before the whole goal we’ve helped our child set, becomes unachievable and your child feels like a failure, so remember, start small.
Allow them to make mistakes and learn from the consequences
It can be a fine line, knowing when to step in and advocate on behalf of our children and when to protect them from a mistake knowing the added stress this will bring.
But… knowing when to let them take the rap for a mistake or bad choice from time to time is important in the process of building your child’s self-control and resilience.
I’m talking about forgetting their homework, not studying for a test or leaving assignments until the last minute. Maybe they’ve forgotten their lunch or have decided they’re not going to attend a sport or music practice.
When your child makes a decision that you don’t believe is the correct one, you can guide them, but as they get older, the time will come when they need to become more responsible for the choices they make.
No one likes to make a mistake and get into trouble for it or be penalized as a result, but often these are the consequences of bad choices.
Chores and responsibilities
Making children responsible for certain tasks builds a sense of importance. Your child may not understand how critical it is to take the bins out at night until they hear the garbage truck pulling up out the front in the early hours of the morning. Then they have to run outside their pyjamas, or worse still, have to bear the consequences of working out to do with the overflow of rubbish for the coming week.
Having chores and responsibilities gives your child self-worth and getting it right, can make them appreciate how taking action can make a difference.
Models, mentors, and examples
Everyone is good at something. Activities that prove your child is successful are important. They could mentor other children in areas where they excel or alternatively somebody could be mentoring them to make them even better.
Using role models or characters in books to help start a discussion about choices can highlight how other experience struggles and overcome difficulties.
Having good relationships and support from family, school and the community is very important in developing resilience. Children use adults as role models and if those role models show good resilience, your child is more likely to learn how to be resilient too.
Develop good open communication and support networks
Whenever you can, take time to listen to what your child has to say and find out how they are feeling. Your child wants to know they can come to you with any personal problems or challenges. Don’t give them the answers every time, instead, encourage them to think about the solutions to their problems and work towards a win-win solution together.
Resilience is not just a skill for school, it’s for life, and our children need to develop the skills to overcome the challenges they face every day.