Resiliency in Childhood
Childhood is such a transformational period of growth and development. But at the same time, with all the changes comes an onslaught of confusing emotions. Additionally, kids are asked to understand peer relationship dynamics, navigate family structures and rules and encounter potential traumas.
We can help our children and teens develop the skills and understanding necessary to be resilient - to be able to adapt to adversity, stress, and even tragedy. It won’t help them to not feel distress, but they will be able to wade through big feelings for positive mental health.
(And feeling scared or upset or sad and doing life anyway is courage at its finest!)
I’ve adapted the following list to build resiliency in children from the American Psychological Association:
Make Connections. Let your children know you love them always. Help them make friends, even having one friend matters. Connect with other family members so your kids know there are many people in their court. Support their connection to God or a higher power.
Help Others. Volunteer. Help them consider ways they can help others - opening doors, smiling, sitting next to someone new at lunch.
Keep a Routine. (But take breaks!) Routines provide structure and comfort but offer break times outside of the normal rhythm of life. We all need to take a rest at some point.
Model Self Care. Be comfortable with “down time.” Take care of yourself with exercise, sleep and healthy eating. And teach your children that it matters. Involve them.
Set Goals. Teach your kids how to set goals and how to break them down into baby steps. My favorite example is from the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Her father instructed her brother to write a report about birds by taking it "bird by bird, buddy.” We can all just take it one step at a time to accomplish what we set our minds to do.
Teach Optimism and Support a Growth Mindset. Remind kids that it is in hard work that they grow. Also remember that we get to choose our outlook. A positive attitude matters, even when dealing with hardship.
Nurture Confidence. Along with a growth mindset, help your child remember the times that they have successfully navigated through difficult situations. Repeat “I can do hard things” until it is true. Help them see all their strengths and work to trust themselves to solve problems. Give them a chance to do tasks on their own so they feel productive and confident.
Parents have such a great opportunity to develop our children’s resiliency. We can do the hard work to positively influence our children’s lives. Bird by Bird.