Now more than ever before, the world is talking about resilience. The ability to face and bounce back from adversity, from stress; the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen changes and the capacity to retain character while being forged in the fire of crisis.
Parents are struggling with the additional task of fostering resilience in their growing children. Here’s a roadmap, but remember resilience is not a destination but a state of being.
Also, children learn by watching, not listening. So, it is more important to model the desired behaviours than to preach.
- Make gratitude a habit – when things are less than optimal, it is easy to lose sight of the few remaining blessings. Gratitude reminds us that all is not lost, and gives us the strength to hang in there while we wait for the wave of adversity to ebb. Teach your children to say ‘thank you’ and to mean it. Enjoy simple joys, such as licking an iced lolly, playing with old and broken toys or how the dew sparkles in the morning sun like ‘fairy dust’ or so my 7-year-old daughter says! Make it a part of their bedtime routine to count the ‘good’ things that happened during the day – things that made them happy; things to be grateful for.
- Focus on what one can control – especially at a time of crisis when so much seems to be outside of one’s control it can be rather overwhelming. More so for children! Help them keep their focus on what they can control by giving them the option to choose, even if it means selecting from the alternatives you make available. For example, donuts for breakfast may not be an option but allow them to decide if they would prefer cereal, porridge or pancakes. Let them choose what they want to wear, what game they want to play (as long as it is safe!) and what cartoon they want to watch (among age-appropriate options). Also help them process and build decision-making skills by explaining the rationale – why is it important to wash hands often or why they may not be allowed to play in the park, or visit their friends. Information can ease anxiety but make sure the explanation is age appropriate. Religion and faith also help in seeing light at the end of the tunnel – make it a habit to pray every morning or before bed. It will help them accept things that cannot be changed.
- Deal with disappointment – in our efforts to build self-esteem, we may have gone overboard with praise and applause for our children’s often ordinary efforts. While unconditional love and acceptance is important, it is also important to help prepare children for disappointment by allowing them to experience it. Can you ensure that your child will never get a low grade? Can you assure that they will never face heartbreak or difficulties in relationships? Can you promise that their bosses will be wonderful human beings who will always appreciate them? Probably not. But you can try to ensure that your child will be able to face these disappointments and bounce back. So, help them practice from an early age. Don’t give in to every whim, say ‘no’, sometimes just so! Be there to support them as they go through pain and disappointment, rather than avoiding it.
- Encourage self-care – teach them to take care of their own physical and emotional health. Just as you inculcate habits like personal hygiene, eating healthy and exercise, also encourage them to pay attention to their own needs and feelings. Help them verbalise what they are experiencing and talk about emotions. Encourage them to take a break or ‘downtime’ doing nothing sometimes.
- Help them build relationships – it is important for growing children to have meaningful relationships with others, including siblings, grandparents, cousins, teachers and of course friends. Help them invest in relationships and form connections with other adults and children. It will develop a fuller view of themselves and also have a supportive network as they grow. Teach them to help others and to be compassionate. To apologise and accept their own mistakes. To forgive and more on. And also to ask for help when they need it.
All important markers of resilience.
It’s easier than it sounds – especially if you practice these for yourself. And if you haven’t been doing so, it’s never too late to start. Reach out if you need a little help…