Let’s face it. Change is uncomfortable. The unknown can be scary, and going out of our comfort zone can be daunting. No matter how much we try to stay in our comfort zone, change will happen, and we are forced to adapt.
Change is frightening, but we learn to accept it after we get past that initial fear. This ability to adapt is called resilience, and it is a value that parents should teach kids as early as possible.
Teaching kids to be resilient gives them the emotional strength to cope with trauma and other challenges in life. It utilizes their resources and different skills to get past setbacks. Children who lack resilience will most likely feel overwhelmed, which could lead to them relying on unhealthy coping strategies as they age. These toxic strategies could include avoidance, isolation, and self-medication.
Emotionally resilient children are more empowered to accept and adapt to changes. With that, here are seven ways to teach resilience at home:
1. Make a safe space to talk about emotions
Emotions can be overwhelming, especially to children who do not know how to express them, making it difficult for them to discuss with adults. After all, how do you explain something you do not understand?
As a parent, the best way to get your child to talk about their feelings is to create a safe space for them to open up. Let them know it’s okay to express their feelings and that you won’t be angry or punish them for sharing their thoughts. Another way to create a safe space is to react calmly. Your child is constantly watching, and even a tiny frown when they’re sharing what happened could trigger fear. Assurance is key, and once you establish that emotional trust, you’re one step closer to making them resilient.
2. Teach children how to handle emotions
Now that you’ve made a safe space for them to share their feelings, it’s time to teach children about the different emotions and how to handle them. It’s easy to react when we’re filled with positive feelings. When we’re faced with negative emotions, things start to become challenging.
When your child is bombarded with emotions, start teaching them to identify the emotions they’re feeling. Once they can do that, let them know it’s completely normal to feel what they’re feeling. Next, teach them to remain calm by taking deep breaths. Children can better identify their emotions and understand what caused them by focusing on their breaths and staying calm. Knowing one’s triggers makes it easier to find ways to solve them.
3. Encourage healthy communication
Becoming resilient doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes consistency and action to build this value over time, and one of the best ways to do this is to practice communicating healthily.
Healthy communication is communicating without giving hateful or negative responses. People who engage in healthy communication understand they can respectfully disagree with others’ opinions without acting negatively. There are two key ingredients to healthy communication:
- Active listening – Active listening is listening to understand instead of listening to reply, and it entails good posture, gestures, and eye contact. An active listener aligns their body towards the speaker, signaling that they’re interested in and respect the person’s thoughts.
- Reflective listening – Reflective listening reinforces that one is listening and acknowledges the value of what the other person is saying. It reassures the speaker that the listener comprehends what they are sharing.
Teaching your child to listen properly and communicate with good intentions makes them more empathetic and social, contributing to their resilience.
4. Build their self-esteem through affirmation
Part of teaching resilience in children is building their confidence and trust in themselves, especially when faced with challenges. As a parent, one of the best ways to improve their confidence is to remind them that they’re doing a good job. Constantly reassure them by telling them they’re doing well.
When assuring them, make sure to do it sincerely. Children can tell if you’re faking it through your expressions and body language. Believe in the good values you taught them and trust that they can make appropriate decisions for their problems.
5. Encourage a positive mindset
Problems that are close to us can get overwhelming. When emotions aren’t properly regulated under challenging times, this could leave a cognitive impact, such as mental slowness, confusion, and difficulty thinking logically. Children dealing with this for the first time without guidance could act negatively and harm themselves and those around them.
As a parent building resilient children, encourage a positive mindset by teaching them that changes are normal. Let them know that it’s okay to feel different emotions, but also assure them that these changes are temporary. Negative emotions can be overwhelming initially, but they don’t last long unless we let them. Teach your children to step back from the problem and think of what they’d advise a friend going through the same situation. Permanent solutions should not be applied to temporary problems.
6. Allow them to make mistakes
It’s natural for parents to keep their children out of harm’s way. However, it could do more harm than good when done to the extreme. Don’t keep your children in a bubble of safety that they become apathetic and even forget how to solve their problems. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them. As a parent, one of the best things you can do is observe to ensure they’re safe and then talk to them about what happened. Help them reflect on their actions to understand the situation better.
Experience is the best teacher. Trust that they’ll get through the challenges with minimal guidance. Don’t take away the opportunity for them to learn through experience.
7. Be a positive role model
Children need a role model to look up to. This could be their favorite movie star or singer– there is no shortage of candidates, but there is no better role model than someone they see every day. Often, children look up to and imitate what parents say and do. In these formative years, parents should lead by example.
It’s not enough that you teach your children the value of resilience. You must apply this in your life too. Talk about your emotions and apply healthy communication with your children and other people in the house, like your spouse and relatives. Practice affirmation and having a positive mindset around your loved ones.
Remember that children are always watching. Show them what resilience looks like through your actions.