Published February 1, 2021
Joys and disappointments are a part of life and as adults we have acquired coping mechanisms to help weather these ups and downs. A collage of experience and the way those experiences are overcome form the basis of resilience. Simply put, resilience is the ability and determination to dust yourself off a fall and face the next hurdle with optimism.
Kids naturally have a more limited base of experience for acquiring resilience but there are some really great ways you can help them learn how to take on the good and the bad in life and come out on top.
Encourage Decision Making
LIfe is full of decisions big and small and helping your child make good decisions is a huge step in giving them the tools for navigating life. A sense of competence and confidence evolves when children are allowed to make age appropriate decisions and learn from them in a safe manner. As an example, a younger child may benefit from having the independence of choosing their outfit for the day. An older child can be given the decision of when to do homework and allowed to explore what changes to their schedule make positive or negative impacts.
Allow Mistakes to Happen
Little is learned in life without some healthy opportunities for mistakes. In the examples above, a younger child finds out quickly that wearing short sleeves on a cold winter day isn’t the best decision. The older child may realize that by waiting till after dinner to start homework they find themselves up undesirably late. The key is to keep the decision making freedom intact while also allowing a lot of latitude for learning from the mistakes that happen along the way. Asking your child how their decision affected the outcomes and discussing how those outcomes could be changed will be helpful. Refraining from jumping in and solving dilemmas is sometimes tough but allowing your child to learn and grow from their mistakes pays big dividends.
When disappointment strikes, and it will, your reaction to it will be instrumental in paving the way for your child to gain the ability to accept the loss and move on. Communicating that you understand the emotions they are facing is the first step. Once the sting begins to fade you can help your child see the bright side and plan for a way to try again. By sharing your confidence that they will rise above and have new opportunities, they will begin to believe that for themselves. Sometimes disappointments need a bit to mellow and sink in before optimism can be found again but there is always the next opportunity around the corner.
Choose Your Discipline Wisely
Ultimately we want our children to learn that they can make mistakes, face disappointments and learn from them and move forward in positive ways. A focus on discipline being more towards teaching rather than controlling or punitive can be helpful in this goal. Before tossing out an arbitrary punishment, ask yourself if your child will benefit from a more directed lesson in how to do things differently the next time.
Above all, love them hard. The dynamics of the relationship with your child feed their ability to be resilient. Kids who understand from a practical standpoint and an emotional standpoint that someone loves them and has their back are able to face the world of challenges with confidence and competence. The positive connections that you build with your child through taking the time to talk, being involved in their life and providing a good example in your daily living will make all the difference in the world.