Throughout our adult life it is not uncommon to experience stressful times in our jobs, challenging times in our relationships and times of financial pressures. Some of us manage these situations well and others not so well. Being resilient is something that can be learned and is best learned at a young age.
We might assume that our problems and feelings are much bigger than a child’s however that may not always be the case. Comparing an adult losing $1,000,000 to a child losing their favourite toy can bring about the same feelings. But the end of the day, it all comes down to how we manage and learn from our emotions, thoughts and feelings during those times.
Children still have to face new situations, make friends, encounter bullies and learn new and challenging skills. Research has shown children adapt to learning much easier when they are resilient. We can teach children how to be resilience through modelling, providing safe and secure environments, nurturing relationships and other influencing factors.
Resilient children are less prone to Anxiety and Depression as they grow older if they have learned the skills that enable resilience.
Let’s have a look at some of those influencing factors and what you can do to help encourage resilience skills in children;
As an educator or parent we have an important role to play in raising resilient children. What we do, what we say and how we react to different situations is constantly watched, processed and mimicked by the children around us. Particularly in the early years, children’s brains are like sponges, they soak it all up – the good and the bad. Being mindful of what we are saying to others when children are in earshot is a simple strategy to model. If you find yourself constantly complaining, talking disrespectfully about others or worse, talking negatively about the child in earshot – well guess what? It won’t take long before you see similar conversations coming from the child. The best advice, just be mindful of what you say and when you say it.
2. Providing a safe and secure environment
A strong protective factor for children is to feel safe. Not just from a dangerous environment or situation but also feeling safe to explore and be challenged knowing that a caring (non-judgmental) adult is available if needed.
To build resilience, it’s important for children to experience different situations that bring about different feelings. A good strategy is to talk about those feelings. Allow the child to say how they felt rather than say what happened so you can name the feelings for what they are. Over time, as the child becomes able to recognize and verbalise different feelings, it will become easier for them to self-regulate.
3. Nurturing relationships
It’s very important that children have a sense that if something is not going well, they can talk to someone. We need to help them identify and know who they can talk to.How will a child know they can talk to you and that you are a support person for them, both during times of challenge and also to share happy times? Take a minute to think about who are the people in your life that you turn to and what is it about that relationship.
Will it be through the connection you build and your use of non-judgmental language? Will it be because you show them it’s ok to make mistakes? When a child learns that you are there to support them through the good and the bad they will be more comfortable to seek your support when they know you will respond to them rather than react, and most importantly listen.
Children thrive when they have positive role-models around them. We’re not talking celebrities, singers or internet stars, we’re talking about people that children can interact with and talk to, for example; a sister, an aunt or uncle, close family friends or respected people in the community. If you know these people and respect their modeling, it’s a great idea to encourage these relationships to allow children to learn and grow from different peoples perspectives.
4. Having a positive mindset
Is the cup half full or half empty? Research tells us that children with a negative bias or negative mindset are more susceptible to anxiety and depression. Here’s a great exercise you can do with children to encourage a positive mindset. You can call it Beautiful Day or Discovery Walk or make up your own name.The objective is to develop an optimistic attention bias by using their senses to observe all of the beautiful and interesting things around them and to learn to pay attention to the positives in their surroundings.Take your children on a walk through the playground and see how many beautiful and interesting things they can see. You might notice, or draw attention to the warm sun or shape of a cloud, or a tiny plant in a small space, or an insect or ant carrying a large crumb.Be aware that you are modelling and also be aware of what the children are saying…’Look at the mud on the pathway, my shoes are going to get dirty and my mum will be cross’ can be modelled to ‘Yes it is muddy, I like the feel of mud’ or ‘yes the rain has made it muddy, I noticed the rain has also helped those little flowers on the side of the path to grow.’
Building resilience in children helps to reduce Anxiety in Children. Resilient children also grow into resilient adults, and it is through our modelling, relationships and mindset that we can influence children along the pathways to resilience.