I would argue that a little protection in the early years is a good thing. No need to throw a young child to the wolves. Giving children a little time to develop confidence in who they are while they learn these skills can do wonders for them down the road.
I believe the best things we can do for our kids is to help them feel loved, encourage their confidence, and build their resiliency. Although our desire to protect our children comes from a place of love, it’s vital that as they grow they discover how to protect themselves and bounce back when life throws a challenge in their path.
What is resiliency?
Resiliency is a skill that’s learned, not one that we’re born with. It’s defined as our ability to recover and bounce back after we’ve encountered a challenge, obstacle, setback, trauma or disappointment. According the the American Psychological Association, helping our kids build their resiliency when they’re young sets them up for success for the rest of their life.
Resilient children can regroup and try again instead of becoming depressed and feeling hopeless after making a mistake. This allows them to succeed where a non-resilient kid would have just given up.
8 ways to help kids build resiliency
It’s clear that resiliency is essential; but, how do we help our kids build resiliency? It’s something I’ve looked into and luckily, it doesn’t seem take a lot of work. A few simple tweaks to our everyday interactions with them can set our kids on the path to becoming resilient in the face of challenges.
Don’t fix all of their problems
To become resilient, kids need to encounter challenges. It can be so hard not to rush in and help, but sometimes it’s better if we hang back. Solving their problems will cause them to become overly reliant on us and lose confidence in their own ability to solve problems. When our child comes to us with a frustration or problem, we can be supportive and listen but not jump in with an instant solution. Being empathetic and inquiring what ways they can problem solve this can help them work out possible solutions themselves.
Help them identify their emotions
Becoming resilient involves recognizing negative emotions such as frustration, fear, anger and disappointment. When the girls were young, helping them name their feelings helped so much in getting rid of tantrums.
We can help our children identify these emotions by asking how a particular challenge or difficulty made them feel. Burying feelings is not a part of resiliency. We need to acknowledge how we felt so that you can move on.
Recognizing positive emotions is also helpful. After our child overcomes their challenge and bounces back, we can help them see how that success made them feel happy, proud or relieved. This will encourage the habit of pushing through challenges.
Teach them to embrace mistakes
You can’t bounce back from mistakes if you’re not making any. Let our kids see that we’re not perfect and show them it’s okay to make mistakes. The key here is to focus on what we can learn from the mistakes, not the fact that we made them. Ask your child what they’d do differently next time, and they’ll begin to focus on the solution and not the fact that they made a mistake.
Show them coping skills
Some challenges and difficulties can be more complex than others. Once our children have identified a negative emotions they feel due to a hardship, it’s important they know how to deal with those emotions. Try teaching them coping skills such as journaling, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or getting outside for fresh air and movement.
These skills will go a long way towards taking the pain out of the difficulty they’re facing. This also sets them up to choose healthy coping mechanisms instead of unhealthy ones when they’re an adult.
Focus on the positives
This strategy goes hand in hand with embracing mistakes. Instead of dwelling on the negatives of their situation, show them the silver lining. This could be their opportunity to try again and learn how to approach the problem differently. Or it might be the unexpected bonus that comes from a difficult situation. For example, a child might be sad that they weren’t invited to attend a friend’s birthday party, but we can show them that this means there’s time for the two of us to go out to the theatre to watch that movie they’ve been so excited about.
Encourage them to take risks
It’s healthy for your kids to take risks. It helps them learn what works and what doesn’t work. Instead of telling them no, they can’t do something, ask them what their plan is. This will allow them to think through their ideas.
Risk-taking and trying new things will teach them to be brave and embrace life’s challenges. A kid who decides to take a risk and try out for a sports team when they’re younger will be more likely to apply for an exciting job when they get older.
Teach them how to solve problems
Resiliency doesn’t mean doing everything yourself. In fact, it’s important that our kids know they can come to us for help. They should know that while we’re not going to solve their problems, we will always listen to them to help them come up with a solution on their own.
Be a good role model
Like all things, the best thing we can do to help our kids build their resiliency is model resiliency. We need to show our kids what it looks like when we face a challenge or difficulty. We don’t have to go into specifics, but we can let them know in a general way that we’ve encountered a problem and that although it makes us feel certain emotions, we’re going to work through it. Show them the coping strategies you’re going to use to bounce back from your setback and let them see you bravely trying again.
This will help our children see the resiliency pathway from start to finish, and they’ll better know what to do when they face a problem.
Helping our kids build their resiliency isn’t complicated. The main thing to remember as a parent is that our children need to face difficulty so they can learn to overcome it. And that can be really freaking hard when our instincts are to protect them. However, supporting them in their challenges and helping them push through to the next step will go a long way in developing lifelong resiliency skills.