Raising Resilient Children
As children go through various stages of development, it is important they learn to face adversity and manage difficult or uncomfortable situations. Parents often find it hard to resist the urge to protect children from experiencing unpleasant situations and whilst this is a perfectly natural instinct, avoiding exposure to life’s many challenges leads to lost opportunities for developing valuable coping strategies and problem-solving skills. As children grow, they need to learn how to be resilient, how to come up with solutions to problems and how to assess risks.
If a child is not allowed to experience age appropriate things such as learning to ride a bike, sort out disagreements with friends, catch a bus to school, lose in a sports game, or face the consequences for not doing homework and assignments, then the child doesn’t learn to cope with the emotions, problems and consequences associated with these situations. Through exposure to a variety of problematic or slightly risky situations, children learn to analyse situations, weigh up risks and consequences, think outside the box and develop the ability to bounce back from adversity. The ability to do this, will help them to overcome many challenges in later life.
Parents can help children develop resilience in the following ways;
- Recognise and accept that each time you give into the urge to protect your child instead of letting him or her experience the emotions and problems associated with a situation, you are preventing them from going through a valuable learning experience.
- Assess situations before deciding to intervene. This will help you to determine if there is a real risk to the child or if it is an opportunity to learn new coping skills, develop problem solving abilities, manage fear, weigh up risks and trust their own judgement. Encouraging children to confront unfamiliar situations helps them begin the journey towards becoming resilient young people/adults.
- Help your child to identify personal strengths. By doing this, your child will be able to utilise these skills to get through difficult times.
- Provide opportunities for children to problem solve so they can learn to find solutions when faced with challenges and develop the ability to resolve issues by themselves. This increases their sense of competency and confidence.
- Allow your child to experience the consequences of poor choices and bad behaviour. Children need to learn how the world works and that poor choices usually lead to uncomfortable outcomes and consequences. Through this, they also learn that their actions not only affect themselves but can impact negatively upon others around them.
- Let your child experience both winning and losing. Don’t fall into the trap of giving trophies for coming last. It is important that children learn to accept losses in a graceful manner without having to be rewarded in some way for it. They need to learn and accept that life is a mixture of good and not so good moments.
- Provide reassurance that sometimes things don’t go as we plan, and this is a normal part of life. Encourage them to keep on trying to overcome situations through persistence and determination.
- Provide ongoing opportunities for open discussion with your child about how he or she can manage different situations.
A crucial part of a child’s development is learning how to cope and bounce back when faced with difficult situations. Parents who recognise this and provide opportunities for their offspring to learn to handle adversity, will be rewarded by seeing them become resilient, independent and capable adults in the future.
If your child is having difficulties building resilience and you think counselling could be of assistance, please call Karen Cummins at Mindful Crossroads counselling services on 0400 416 535 or fill in the “Contact” section on the Mindful Crossroads website to arrange a confidential discussion.