What is resilience? Simply put, resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from adversity. Adversity can range from serious loss or a hurtful event to the disappointment of missing out on something or failing at a task. Resilience is the ability to adapt and change to situations, learning from them and improving the chances of successfully dealing with unexpected or challenging things in the future.
Resilience is not about struggling alone. Rather it means harnessing your personal and external resources.
It is impossible to protect children from all the things that may disappoint or upset them in their lives. In fact, over-protecting children can result in learning problems.
In her book, The Pampered Child Syndrome, Maggie Mamen suggests that “The dependent learner, who relies on, and receives, direction and constant bolstering from adults, will have a very difficult time developing the confidence to become a competent, risk-taking problem-solver”. Such children “will not even consider tackling this often painful and frustrating task because of the discomfort it causes”
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
A resilient child is characterized by their flexibility, hopefulness, optimism about the future, positive self-esteem and their strong relationships with others.
Resilience, despite common belief, is not a personality trait that we are born with. Rather it is a set of skills, attitudes and learned behaviours that can be influenced and facilitated by the child’s environment. As parents, we can guide and support our children to better cope with changes, disappointments and challenges.
Research has discovered that resilient children share most of the following factors:
- The ability to stay focused on tasks
- Problem – solving skills
- Self -regulation of emotions
- Self – efficacy and positive self esteem
- Being involved in groups (sport, religious or community)
- Optimism about the future
- Feeling valued and knowing their strengths
- Contact with caring and competent adults
Why is resilience important?
Resilient children are flexible and cope better with change and uncertainty. Their optimism and confidence helps them to resolve problems more easily; mastering tasks increases self-esteem and generates hopefulness about future challenges. Resilient children, therefore, tend to be happier, sociable, positive thinkers, and are less likely to develop mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
You cannot appreciate the sun until you go through a rainy day
How can you help your child learn to be more resilient?
Help them to develop a more positive view of their strengths and abilities. Redirect any discussion about what they cannot do. Show them how they can apply their strengths to solve problems and deal with difficult situations. Teach them to use positive self-talk like “I think I can” or “I cannot do it yet”.
Stop them from disasterizing. Don’t try to protect them from difficult feelings and situations. Help them to keep things in perspective. People make mistakes, are disappointed, lose friends, struggle to learn new skills every day. Making mistakes and overcoming difficulties is how we learn and become stronger.
Acknowledge their feelings but then help them to look towards the future.
Help them to accept things that cannot be changed, and encourage them to make plans to change those things that they can influence. Remind them that the longer they hold onto their negative feelings, the longer it will take to improve a situation.
Check that their plans and goals are realistic and help them to break their goals down into small, achievable steps. No one achieves all their goals, so encourage them to acknowledge their efforts each day.
Encourage them to reach out – to make new friends, spend time with other positive adults and take part in group activities. Children who are able to develop supportive, healthy relationships tend to cope much better with life’s difficulties. These relationships can also help them develop other resilience skills.
Talk to them without judgement. Find out more about their fears and dreams. Teach them to communicate their needs and ideas clearly and openly, and provide lots of fun games and activities that use problem-solving.
Encourage a positive outlook for the future by helping them to recall all the good things they have experienced and achieved so far. Family photo albums and gratitude journals are good starting points.
Help them to visualize a positive outcome when facing a situation that provokes fear. If the fear is based on a previous negative experience, revisit that incident with them to identify some ways where they could have handled the situation differently.
Remember! Resilience is not a personality trait. It is a learnt set of skills, behaviours and attitudes.
Feel like learning more? Watch this inspiring story – Sam: My Philosophy for a Happy Life
Would these ideas be useful to present at a staff meeting or a parent evening? Go to my workshops link.
You might be interested in these:
The big little book of resilience by Matthew Johnstone (Pan MacMillan Australia)
Resilience series for teachers by Annie Greeff (Crown House Pub Ltd)
One Step Ahead: Raising 3 to 12 Year Olds by Michael Grose (Random House Australia)
The Pampered Child Syndrome by Maggie Maman (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)