Changes and challenges – big and small – are part of life, and all children will face them at some point. While we can’t protect our children from every hurdle or disappointment they face, teaching resiliency skills to our children can help them bounce back from life’s setbacks. In addition, resiliency also has other benefits, including building confidence and the willingness to try new things.
What does it mean to be “resilient”?
Being resilient is the ability to quickly recover from setbacks, and adapt to change.
It’s the ability to keep working at something, even when it’s not easy. For children, they may face big challenges such as starting a new school, bullying, or moving to a new town. They may also face every day challenges like being corrected by a teacher, not being chosen for a team, or falling off their bike.
As a parent, you can help your child learn the skills they need to build their resilience through everyday parenting tips.
- Let your child be a problem-solver and find solutions to simple problems, such as finding their shoes or getting a cup of water. Children need to learn critical thinking skills and then practice their problem solving. The starting point can be everyday play. Here, they are surrounded with chances to problem solve, whether they’re playing an imaginary game with their toys, building with blocks, or coloring. Giving your child choices is a first step, even for toddlers.
- Allow for appropriate risk or age-appropriate freedoms. Life is full of risk—some serious, some mundane. We make decisions every day that involve some level of risk (“Do I buy broccoli instead of peas this week and risk that my child will spit it out in protest?”). With our children, it’s the same. Not every “risk” is obvious. Learning to ride a skateboard or climbing a tree both involve obvious, physical risk. It’s more about taking a step back to evaluate where you can give your child opportunities to challenge themselves. Maybe it’s urging them to climb up one higher branch on a tree (or climb it at all), or allowing them to get a skateboard for their birthday (Don’t forget knee/elbow pads and a helmet!)
- Allow your child to make mistakes. Think of mistakes as learning opportunities for your child. Being there for them when they get a failing grade even though they refused to study for a test or allowing them to feel disappointment when they don’t make the softball team—these are opportunities to talk about consequences, and what they could do differently next time. Avoid being judgmental (I told you so). Instead, help your child see that the outcome might have been different if they put in more effort.
- Encourage your child to keep trying. If the situation is beyond their skill level, build in any support they might need. A math tutor or even an older child can help them learn the skills needed to be successful or inspire them to keep going. You can share the superpower of the word “yet.” You aren’t hitting the ball “yet,” or you don’t know the words to the song “yet.” “Yet” implies they will be successful at some point, and it sometimes takes the willingness to keep on trying to make that happen.
- Talk about emotions openly. Part of being human is feeling a wide range of emotions, from happiness and anger, to sadness and disappointment. Encourage your child to talk about their emotions and allow them to feel what they need to feel in the moment. Life seems unfair sometimes. Validate their difficult feelings and help them frame the situation in terms of what they learned.
- Model being resilient for your child. As your child’s primary “life” teacher, use your own mistakes or challenges to show that it’s possible to bounce back from setbacks and overcome challenges. For example, “I also feel disappointed that we can’t visit Grandma this weekend. And we can call her on Saturday and talk about all the fun things we will do when we can all be together again.”
Supporting your child’s coping skills
It’s natural to want to keep your children safe and to protect their feelings. But you can’t shield them from every hurt and disappointment. What you can do though, is help them learn to cope and build their resiliency skills. Bouncing back from life’s disappointments, big or small, is a life skill you can help your child learn.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Grilley and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).
Triple P Online is an online course for parents of children ages 2-12, comprised of 12 modules to learn different skills to help your family thrive. Information is delivered in video format with activities to customize the program to your family. If you or your child are on Oregon Health Plan (OHP) you can get Triple P Online for free.