Children often surprise us by how resilient they are in many situations. Resiliency – the ability to recover quickly from adversity or disruptive change – is often thought as something that is innate, but in reality it is something that should be taught, says Dr. Mery Taylor, a pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s. Resiliency can help children regulate their emotions and lead to an emotionally healthier life into adulthood. It’s a skill that can be encouraged on a daily basis. Parents and caregivers can guide their children on managing common issues that come up at home, school or with peers.
Dr. Taylor offers the following tips to help teach your kids to be resilient:
- Acknowledge your children’s feelings. Listen carefully to your children’s concerns before you offer your opinion or solution. Keep in mind your child’s personality; some kids may be more anxious to begin with, for example, and may need more support. Let your children know that they are loved. Remind them that they are bigger and stronger than the disappointment they are facing.
- Allow your children to problem solve. It’s ok to allow your children to try something and fail from time to time. Support your children’s decision or thought process, rather than solving the problem for them. If they fail, let them know that it’s ok to fail or feel disappointed. Talk about lessons learned and what can be done differently next time. This can help your children develop self-confidence.
- Model resilient behavior. A child’s reaction to his chronic illness, for instance, often depends on the reaction of his parents, Dr. Taylor explains. If you remain optimistic and hopeful, it’s likely your kids will too. Reassure your children that while certain situations may be out of everyone’s control, they are in control of how they react to these situations. This helps your children’s ability to cope and helps reduce their anxiety.
- Don’t dwell on negative emotions. It’s ok to demonstrate your feelings in front of your children, including sadness, anger or frustration. It’s natural to feel that way in certain situations, especially when it involves your children. It’s important not to dwell on those emotions, however. Follow those emotions with positive messages, such as:
- I love you and I’m always going to be here for you.
- We are going to get through this together.
- Reflect on past challenges. Even when your children are facing painful events, you can remind them of another time in their lives when they overcame adversity. Have them reflect on how much they grew from that experience and how they are stronger and more competent.
- Teach your child self-care. Start with the basics. Discuss the importance of healthy eating, exercise and rest. Be an example for them. Also, after a tough day, think together about ways they can turn their day around, for example, a good joke, a hug or a visit to the park. In times of prolonged stress, remember to build in time to relax, disconnect from electronics and TV. Find a ritual that works for your family to let go of the worries and challenges, if only for a few minutes. For some, it might be through prayer or meditation, while others may benefit from breathing techniques.