Building resilience in children: why adaptability is crucial
Resilience is crucial for facing life’s challenges, dealing with setbacks, losses and changes. Over the last two years children have been challenged hugely, experiencing the trauma of lockdown and a global pandemic, as well as massive changes to their daily routine and structure. Building your child’s resilience and adaptability will help them deal with stress and emotions, and help them develop into well-balanced adults, making them a valuable addition to the workforce down the line.
Most children are old pros when it comes to bouncing back. A scraped knee in a playground leads to tears, a kiss on the boo-boo, and they’re back out on the swings in 5 minutes. Best friends can have an argument, declare war, make up and be whispering secrets to each other again all in the space of a single recess. Children are the human equivalent of little bouncing balls! But what happens when your child isn’t bouncing back?
Here are experts’ top tips for building resilience in children:
1. Model positive coping mechanisms for your child
Children learn by seeing. While you may not have much control over the inputs at school, or with their friends, you can ensure that at home, you model positive coping mechanisms for your child. This can include moderating how you respond to challenges and setbacks.
2. Teach problem solving and autonomy
When children are equipped to handle problems on their own, they are less likely to become overwhelmed by small setbacks. Problem solving games can help, as can encouraging your child to work out solutions to minor problems, and giving them some decision making authority in their everyday lives.
3. Build a support network for your child
Having a network of adult friends and family upon whom they can rely, and who exhibit resilience themselves, will go a long way towards building your child’s resilience. A solid social network is important for your child’s confidence and sense of well being.
4. Build your child’s self-esteem
Solving problems starts with the self-confidence needed to try in the first place. You can build your child’s self esteem with affirmations, encouraging a good social life with peers, practicing their favourite activities, helping them learn new skills, and praising good behaviour and kindness. This will lead to confidence in decision-making, and later resilience.
5. Make sure your child knows it’s okay to ask for help
In addition to being able to solve small problems on their own, it’s important that your child knows they can ask for help solving bigger problems. This can be a fine balancing act: encourage your child to solve problems on their own first, and use your own judgement with bigger problems. However, it’s important to only step in when they ask for help, or you risk damaging their confidence.
6. Focus on managing emotions
When your child becomes overwhelmed with negative emotions, they aren’t able to problem solve, think rationally or practice resilience. If your child starts to become emotional, help them to settle down by practicing mindful breathing with them, using counting to calm them down, having them take a break from what is frustrating them. If your child regularly struggles with their emotions, practicing mindfulness with them might be helpful. You can also create a calm-down kit filled with their favourite mood-boosting objects and activities (think a favourite teddy bear, or a puzzle to focus on).
7. Reframe negative events
This comes down to attitude and wording. Teach your child to look at problems as challenges to be overcome. Reframe setbacks as opportunities for growth and development. Work on finding solutions with your child, and ask them “what can we learn from this situation that will help us next time?”
8. Practice gratitude
Gratitude is a fantastic tool for reflection. Build a few minutes into every day, perhaps at bedtime, to have your child recount what they are grateful for, including any challenges they worked through in the day. This goes hand in hand with building a positive, can-do mindset.
One of the biggest lessons in resilience theory is knowing when to ask for help to prevent overwhelm. If your child’s schoolwork is suffering, a tutor can help set them up for future successes and learn to problem solve in their most challenging subjects. Book a BrightSparkz tutor today!
Written by Tessa Cooper, BrightSparkz Guest Blogger