One definition of resiliency is the ability to bounce back from difficult/challenging experiences. Many parents believe that children are naturally resilient which will help them “get over” things easily and move past trauma. However, most child mental health practitioners point out that this is a fallacy because resilience is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Helping children develop resilience is something parents should prioritize. This is because everyone faces setbacks and difficulties in life and having developed resilience in childhood will help children better navigate those challenges.
We all know there is no manual or blueprint when it comes to parenting but a method that is tried and true is to model the behavior we want to see in our children. The adage, “monkey see, monkey do”, applies to children because they learn and imitate appropriate behavior by watching and listening to others and especially their parents. Modeling resilience to our children is a lesson they learn over time as they observe the way parents navigate challenges and model the behavior, we want to see in them.
The first step in raising resilient children is to teach them how to recognize and name their feelings. With the ability to name and recognize feelings, children are then able to connect those emotions with appropriate responses allowing them to move forward healthily. When children recognize their feelings, they have taken the first step towards regulating their emotions. Parents can start this recognition process early by teaching young children to associate physical reactions and facial expressions with specific emotions. As children get older, help them recognize emotions and then take the next step of identifying responses.
Help them establish supportive positive relationships. Positive, supportive, and strong relationships are sometimes the best ways for children to deal with challenging times, knowing they have loving and caring people around them to help support them. Having healthy relationships in childhood also teaches them what healthy relationships look like and enables them to identify and create healthy relationships of their own. Resilient people don’t always “bounce back” from the challenges in life but knowing how to create a network of positive relationships is one way to create a support system that will help them cope.
Teach them to ask for help by asking for help yourself. This once again models the behavior you want to see because you are walking the talk. Normalize seeking professional help and support as another way of coping with difficult emotions and developing resilience. Join communities of people on the same parenting journey and participate in parenting workshops where you can explore and learn more about fostering resilience in children as well as other parenting issues. Our upcoming April 18, Positive Parenting Live Virtual Workshop is an opportunity to learn about teaching your child resilience.