The American Psychological Association describes resilience as “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”
We all want this for our children. Building resilience helps children maintain a positive view of themselves, others, and the world around them. The real question is this: how? How can we, as parents, help our children grow in this skill?
Consider these five areas: connection with others, rising to challenges, maintaining high expectations for your children, modeling resilient behaviors and nurturing their spirituality.
Connection with Others
Encourage your child to connect with other kids. Model social skills for them. Show them what good sportsmanship looks like and how to solve problems with others in a calm way that maintains connection.
Foster opportunities for your child to grow these skills with their peers and with family. Play dates, birthday parties, neighborhood gatherings and the like give children opportunities to grow in their social skills – which in turn grows their confidence and ultimately their resilience. Developing strong family connections with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings can boost your child’s confidence in talking with people of all ages and stages.
Rising to Challenges
Children need to know that they can do difficult things. Research shows that self-efficacy can buffer the effects of negative mental health due to daily stressors.
Encourage your child to try new things, like joining a club that they’re interested in or participating in a group where they don’t know anyone. The local library is a great resource for interest-based events, book clubs, workshops and the like!
Be mindful of avoidant behaviors in your child. When you allow your child to get out of school when they’re anxious about going, procrastinate on assignments for a class they find difficult, or avoid activities that make them anxious, you are enabling avoidant behaviors that are ultimately harming your child. Encouraging your child to rise to these challenges will help build their resiliency.
One way to help your child rise to challenges is by building assertiveness. Teach your child how to ask for what they need, both with adults and with their peers. Practicing these situations in a “pretend play” setting first, rather than in a moment of actual need, may be helpful for younger children. For example, if your child is afraid of ordering their food at a restaurant, pretend to play “restaurant” at home. Pull up the menus for your child’s favorite restaurants online, and practice having your child tell you (the cashier) what they’d like to order. You can also support your child in problem-solving through peer troubles by giving them scenarios that may happen with their friends, and encouraging them to think about how they could respond.
Maintain High Expectations
Maintain high expectations for school and behavior, but be gracious and supportive if your child doesn’t rise to their responsibilities right away. Continue to support their growth in troublesome areas by communicating with their teachers for assistance, encouraging older children to talk to their teachers themselves, and rewarding the behaviors you want to see. Acknowledge their efforts to be a good friend, to do well in school, to be helpful and kind, and any other characteristics you’re wanting to grow in them.
Model Resilient Behaviors
The old saying that “more is caught than taught” applies here! Our children may not always listen to us, but they’re definitely paying attention to what we do and how we act. Modeling resiliency for our children is a must. Some ways we can do this are:
- Keep a hopeful attitude when things don’t go as planned
- Practice gratitude for what is going right
- Keep challenges in perspective, such as looking at difficulties through the lens of your family’s spirituality
- Notice how you’re speaking to people in front of your children; are you listening well, empathizing with them, problem solving, settling disagreements while maintaining connection, etc?
- Set high expectations for yourself and allow your child to witness how you reach for and meet your goals
Nurture Their Spirituality
Research supports spirituality as a mitigating factor for promoting the resilience of families and children. This can be a buffer against depression and a support for better psychological adjustment in kids.
Teach children about their faith as well as their role here (how to have a relationship with God, how to pray, acceptable and unacceptable behavior, why it’s important, etc.) Foster a home environment where your children feel comfortable sharing their spiritual questions and experiences.
Counseling in Greenville, SC at Wellspring Can Help
If you notice that your child’s avoidant behaviors are worsening, counseling can help. Maybe you want to work on your own resiliency so that you can better model it for your child, or maybe you want your child to come to counseling too. Our team of counselors can help. You can call our Intake Coordinator at 864-214-2084 Option 1 to talk about your options and schedule an appointment at our Greenville, SC counseling center.