Resilience is the ability to face adversities and bounce back from the most stressful events of life. It teaches individuals to utilize their strengths to overcome their weaknesses. Several mental health experts advocate developing resilience in children from an early age.
Whether resilience is innate or can be acquired through experiences is a debatable issue. But the fact that stands tall is that parents can help children learn ways to be resilient.
Read on as we give you an insight into some of the benefits of instilling a sense of resilience in children. We also provide a few tips on how you can support your child in the journey.
Importance Of Resilience In Children
Adults and teenagers exhibit resilience to some extent. However, it is imperative that parents learn the importance of building resilience in their children in adverse situations, so as to make them tougher and cope well whenever they find themselve in such situations.
- In the past year, we have faced a global pandemic that has disrupted everyday life. Arguably, children’s mental health was more affected due to issues rounding coronavirus pandemic, more reason to build resilience in children
- Although adults were quick to understand the causes and the preventive measures to follow, such as maintaining physical distance, children had difficulty coping with a massive change in their lives due to poor resilience, which resulted in an increased distress.
- Children had to remain indoors as the schools remained shut due to the pandemic, losing social contact with the outside world. The pandemic took the children out of school, and as a result, they had difficulty adapting to online classes and exams.
- Children are not used to learning in social isolation. They like to study in groups and enjoy playing, discussing lessons, and seeking help from peers. These improve their interpersonal relationships and help them better understand the outside world. However, their routine activities have been disrupted, making it difficult for children to cope with this situation.
There is a need to foster resilience in children and make them strong enough to cope with life’s challenges. Teaching children to be resilient early will help them become strong, independent, and successful. Building resilience in children will help them in the following ways;
- Help them maintain strong relationships with adults and authority figures, especially parents, and are less likely to be rebellious and anxious.
- Children who face difficult experiences can truly build biological resilience to adversity. And children who learn to be resilient are confident, exhibit a strong sense of self-reliance, and exercise restraint in challenging situations.
- They are less likely to fail in academic or social settings because they can easily handle exam stress or school pressures.
- Such children will not be prone to peer pressure. They are also more likely to perform better in school and less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors.
20+ Strategies To Build Resilience In Children
Here are a few strategies that you could adopt to help build resilience in your children.
1. Be ready to lend an ear
Listen to your children, and let them know that you understand their feelings and opinions. They will learn to turn to you when they are in trouble and see you as a source of comfort. Empathy can help children build a compassionate and healthy relationship with others. Your child’s success depends on your ability to communicate effectively and listen to your child.
2. Encourage and help them develop self-confidence
You should actively involve in your child’s interests and hobbies and encourage them to pursue activities that interest them. Take every possible opportunity to improve your child’s inherent talents and give them compliments. This will help infuse a sense of confidence in them and make them cope better when faced with adverse situations.
3. Let them face adversity – under controlled circumstances
Let’s face it — you will never always be there every second of your child’s life. They will need to care for themselves and be self-reliant at some stage. It is crucial that they work towards this goal from an early age. You can encourage them to have a certain degree of independence under controlled circumstances so that they can learn these crucial lessons in a safe environment. For instance, you can allow them to travel alone or buy medicines for an ailing family member.
4. Be a positive role model for them
Children are not born with the ability to deal with adverse situations, but you can hone their ability to become resilient in a healthy way in the right environment. To achieve this, parents or guardians should lead by example and become role models for children. Adults face stress at work, deal with financial problems, health issues, or family troubles. Your child will observe and learn how you deal with these situations. Maintaining utmost calm and composure in difficult times will help children learn such qualities from adults.
5. Know when to step in and when to let them handle things
Children must learn coping mechanisms on their own to become inherently resilient. However, you must know when to intervene as parents. Carefully observe if your child shows symptoms of stress or depression, especially when they face a breakup or exam failure. In such situations, you need to show empathy and talk to them.
6. Help them make smarter choices
Children respond better you give them advice and suggestions. As a parent, you need to find the right balance and gently nudge them towards more sensible life choices. It could be a bad influence in their life, a bad habit, a career choice, etc.
7. Help them accept the inevitable
When children undergo a fundamental change in their lives, it can profoundly impact them for a long time. It can be something as simple as changing the school to something more serious such as losing a pet. In times like these, it is essential to let your children know that these things, though tragic or frightening, are part of life, and they have to deal with them and move on. Assure them that life is not always sour grapes, and this too shall pass. Tell them that better things lie ahead and that they will emerge from these tribulations.
8. Don’t underestimate the value of exercise
Teach your children the advantages of exercising and keeping fit. Apart from the obvious physical benefits, there are numerous links between physical fitness and mental well-being. It can be a walk in the morning or a swim in the evening, or running errands. Exercise and fitness are vital to enhancing children’s resilience.
9. Make them versatile and adaptable to change
A child may witness several changes in their life. They may change schools, or long-time friends may leave the school. Sometimes parents may move to a new house or even relocate to a new country. Building a new social life and creating a new friend circle can be challenging in such situations. As a parent, you must make your children understand that these changes are for the best, even if they seem complicated now. In the long run, these changes will bring a richer and more diverse life experience.
10. Underscore the importance of sleep
Sleep is the best recouping mechanism. It helps us rejuvenate. Insufficient sleep can cause impulse control problems, which may compel children to adopt risky behaviors. Therefore, encourage your children to develop a regular and healthy sleep schedule.
11. Share your own experiences of resilience with them
Resilience is not a genetic trait. We cannot control life situations. However, what we can change is how we deal with them. Therefore, you need to equip your children with the necessary skills to cope with challenging situations and make them resilient. To achieve this, you must share your tragic moments, such as losing a family member or a grave medical condition. Make them understand how you could cope with such hard times to make your children stronger and resilient.
12. Teach them basic problem-solving skills
When your children are at a stage where they know that difficulties and problems are part of daily life, you can teach them basic problem-solving skills to help them overcome the hard times. Teach them how to deal with complicated social interactions or bullying at school. A basic understanding of how to deal with these situations will significantly benefit your child.
13. Tell them every experience is a learning experience
Terrible things happen, and often they are not in our control. No matter how we avoid or manage them before or when they happen, we can always learn from them. Teach your children to look at everything in their lives as an educational experience from which they can learn something. This will enable them to better cope with adversity when similar situations occur.
14. Encourage them to build support systems outside of family
Encourage your children to build a support system outside of the family. Although parents and siblings offer a solid support system when children seek help, it is always good for children to build other independent support systems outside the family. Establishing a good friends circle or maintaining a healthy relationship with teachers or mentors can help a child cope with stress.
15. Teach them the value of delayed gratification
Many disappointments are often self-inflicted. There can be many disappointing situations, such as not getting good grades in examinations, getting impatient with birthdays, or simply wanting to grow up faster. You need to make your children understand that good things happen to people who exhibit patience and perseverance.
16. Don’t indulge their every whim
True resilience comes from manifesting your desires by yourself without help. It is natural to want to lend a helping hand to your children and give them everything they want, but you need to let them understand that the best things in life are earned. For this reason, you should not give them whatever they want but encourage them to work towards the goal constructively.
17. Set aside time for one-on-one discussions with your kids
As your child grows up, life will be hectic for both of you. You might find yourself chasing deadlines while your child’s exams are round the corner. You should always set aside time to talk to your child regardless of the circumstances. A heart-to-heart talk allows your child to understand that the communication channel is open.
18. Prepare them for hardship but don’t scare them from trying
As a parent, you must find a delicate balance while teaching your children to be careful and not scare them away from life experiences. For this, you need to let them know that they will occasionally fail and that things will not always go as per plan. A little preparation and the right attitude can help your children bounce back from difficult situations and emerge stronger. Let them learn by themselves, but offer some gentle guidance.
19. Avoid jumping to their rescue
When your child faces certain problems, it is natural for you to resolve them. Remember, tough times don’t last; tough people do. The hard times make your child tenacious. Let your children learn a few tough lessons and allow them to fight their battles. It will be beneficial in the long run.
20. Don’t talk in extremes
Certain things are destined to happen, no matter how hard you may try to change the situation. Pets may die, friends may die, and your loved ones may become seriously ill. It doesn’t mean you should bombard your child with all the information and scare them. Instead, assure them that things could have been worse. Help them recognize that these problems are real but not a constant threat to their happiness. You must allow your child to become resilient without scaring them.
21. Talk about your failings and how you overcame them
You may want to appear infallible to your children. Most children may think their parents can do no wrong and may not be affected by the same problems that hurt you. In the long run, this is not a good thing. You should talk to your child about the fears, anxieties, and shortcomings in your growing-up years and how you handled them. Once they see that you faced similar issues at home or school and are now a resilient and functional adult, they will realize that what they are experiencing is part of growing up.
22. Provide them broader exposure where possible
No matter how outgoing you are, it is always a good thing to have more exposure to the world. Encourage your child to participate in field and school trips whenever possible. Try to give them a chance to travel safely with friends. If possible, let them travel overseas. Exploring the world will provide them new perspectives and new opportunities to interact with people of different cultures, making them global citizens.
23. Let them know consequences are real
Children often behave without thinking and assume that their parents will intervene if things get out of control. Teenagers often feel this way. They may break a road rule or indulge in substance abuse. Let them know that crossing certain boundaries and indulging in risky behavior will lead to consequences and that they should exercise restraint in matters related to their safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the signs of resilience in a child?
Resilient children can learn from setbacks and find solutions. They try to acknowledge their strengths when things go wrong and are optimistic that their situations and skills will improve. They are comfortable with functioning independently and asking for help when required.
2. How does a child become resilient?
Children generally develop resilience when they are taught to respond positively after facing a difficult situation. Having a supportive role model to guide them, positive experiences, and a skill set that allows them to adapt to challenges can help children become resilient.
Life may not go the way one wants, and resilience becomes a surviving skill during such times. To teach children what resilience is, let them face adversity and work on the solution independently. Try to balance controlling the circumstances while minimizing your participation. Since children mimic adults, become their role models, and surround them with inspirational figures. Teach them the tactics to overcome everyday problems and give them a few real-life examples from your experiences. Also, know that teaching resilience to children is time-taking progress. But every struggle is worth it when your child learns to become a strong and independent individual.
- Parents should help their children develop resilience so that they learn to deal with stressful situations in life.
- Allow your children some independence to face situations, discuss their apprehensions and encourage them to be confident.
- Help them learn adaptability, basic problem skills, and, more importantly, lead by example.
2. Martie L. Skinner et al.; Predicting Functional Resilience Among Young-Adult Children of Opiate-Addicted Parents; Journal of Adolescent Health (2008).