Building Emotional Resilience in Children
This month I wrote and article for the Spring 2019 (Oct-Dec) issue for the Wellness Warehouse Magazine...
Challenges in life are inevitable, but they don’t always have to yield negative emotional consequences. Instead, they can be reframed as positive experiences - especially for children.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from stress, adversity, failure, challenges and even trauma. Rather than something that children innately have or don’t have, it’s a skill that can be nurtured and developed.
When helping children confront challenges, it’s important to be aware of your own modelled behaviour and world views. Try not to slip into the default mode of simply repeating the (possibly outdated) actions, responses and coping mechanisms of your own parents. Wherever possible, it’s great to encourage kids to use their own inner resources and creativity.
That said, there are a number of tried-and-tested tools parents can use to assist them in guiding their children’s attitudes and behaviours in the face of stressful situations like starting school, bullying, moving home, divorce and sibling rivalry, to name just a few.
BUILD STRONG EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS
Kids develop coping skills within the context of caring relationships, so it’s important to spend one-on-one time with them. Put down the smartphone and focus on your child.
PROMOTE HEALTHY RISK-TAKING
Encourage your child to try something that nudges him or her to venture outside of a comfort zone, but involves little to no harm if he or she doesn’t succeed. This could be anything from adopting a new hobby to practising a different sport or participating in a school play.
RESIST THE URGE TO DICTATE SOLUTIONS
Try not to lecture or explain. Rather, brainstorm with your child - asking questions that spark his or her creativity and can foster sound problem-solving skills.
IDENTIFY AND EXPRESS EMOTIONS
Teach children how to identify and express their feelings. This awareness can help them make sense of what they’re experiencing throughout their lives.
EMBRACE MISTAKES AS LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Embracing mistakes (including your own) helps to promote a growth mindset, encouraging kids to learn from where they go ‘wrong’. Wherever possible, focus on the process rather than the outcome.
Help your child to reframe negative thoughts and fears in a way that is encouraging while remaining honest and realistic.
PRIORITISE SLEEP, EXERCISE AND NUTRITION
Sufficient sleep, physical exercise and nutrition all play a crucial role in stress reduction and overall psychological wellbeing.
DEMONSTRATE HEALTHY COPING SKILLS
Practise deep breathing, taking a time out and other healthy coping skills when facing challenging situations of your own. Children model behaviour.
Adapted from The Happy Kid Handbook by Katie Hurley (Penguin Random House, 2015).