Tips & Tricks for Building Resiliency in Your Child

Two words: Bubble Wrap. In today’s media-saturated in-your-face world, most of us would probably love to wrap our little ones in bubble wrap — protecting their bodies from all harm, their hearts from all the ugliness the world sometimes has to offer, and their minds from all thoughts of inadequacies or messages of you’re just not _____ enough (fill in the blank) that can be found lurking around every corner of society.

Unfortunately, we can’t wrap our children in bubble wrap (though we’re sure they would be willing participants), but we can set them up with the right tools to face adversities and be able to bounce right back and push on through when life — people, school, careers, love — gets tough and the stress of it all becomes too much.

Ever wonder why some people naturally handle stress better than others? When a problem or sudden challenge arises, instead of wavering, backing down, or turning to others, they step up, fix it, and recover. They appear confident and calm, even though chaos may be ensuing around them. If a mistake is made, they learn from it and move on. Others self-doubt, they waiver in their decisions, and let thoughts of their inadequacies get the best of them. They dwell in their mistakes. People with little resiliency skills often rely on others and have difficulty adapting to change, while those with resilience are often very successful, adapting to what life has to throw at them.

So, how do we as parents give our children the tools to be resilient human beings? While resiliency is inherent in us from birth, and some of us are just more resilient naturally than others, our personal experiences from childhood into adulthood do have an effect on how we handle stress and adapt to change. As parents, there are a few things we can do to ensure that our children have the right tools to adjust to challenges that might come their way:

Tip # 1: Start with a Good Foundation

This one may seem obvious, but children need to know that they are unconditionally loved. Children from a loving home where parents show unconditional love are more confident in themselves and feel a deep level of security, two things needed in resiliency. Children need to know that even though they may make mistakes, they will still be loved by the most important people in their lives. This level of security and connection reinforces family values and morals, shows children how to positively resolve issues, how to positively work together with others, and how to express emotions in a healthy way.

Trick: While saying “I love you” can go a long way, showing it on a daily basis, especially during our most unlovable moments, has a much greater effect.

Tip # 2: Compliment Your Child on their Character

Whether your child is a straight A student or star of the soccer team — or not anywhere close to either — that’s okay. Our children have their own strengths and weaknesses, and quite frankly, they will always be competing with others who are going to be stronger, faster, smarter in various aspects throughout the rest of their lives. Instead of always complimenting them on their achievements or awards (it happens by fault, we know!), compliment them on acts that show true character — the traits that actually make them who they are as human beings. Traits such as compassion toward others, loyalty, forgiveness, responsibility, patience, generosity and even resourcefulness are all traits that will serve children well in life by providing them with their own moral compass, or a way in which they will determine right from wrong. Children who have a strong sense of values are more confident in themselves and the decisions they make, helping them overcome adversity if it should come their way. It’s easy to praise for high grades or a physical award — and by all means, don’t stop — but making an effort to notice the small things your child does to help others or to simply be a decent human being may have even more of an impact in the long run.

Trick: Use words of affirmation, rather than physical treats and rewards when praising. In the real world, when our children use good judgment during a conflict, they will have to do so on their own accord, not because they will be rewarded for it. (Lollipops for everyone! We wish, right?!)

Tip # 3: Change Your Attitude

Adulting is hard. Add parenting to that and it gets even more ridiculously hard. When you have all of the stress of being an adult with full-on responsibilities combined with the responsibility of raising tiny human beings, it’s bound to get chaotic at times. Unfortunately, as parents, when we have the weight of the world on our shoulders and feel as though we’re breaking, how we handle the situation truly matters: all eyes are on us. Children mimic what they see, and if mom or dad come home from work and take stress out on the family or portray a negative attitude, children come to believe that that is how stress is to be handled.

Trick: Show children proper decision making techniques by having family meetings with open discussion or by making lists, working through the pros and cons. If you’ve had a long day at work, show your children healthy ways of relieving stress such as taking the dog for a walk, going on a light jog, or doing something that you simply enjoy doing. Life is hard, but a positive attitude can make a huge difference – for you and your family.

Tip # 4: Let Go, Live, and Learn

A hard part of parenting can be letting go little by little, but it’s important that our children know that we believe they have what it takes to succeed in this world when they are no longer holding our hands. Sometimes this is best learned through trial and error, or simply giving our children the confidence to try tasks on their own. Trusting in themselves and knowing that they are capable of succeeding, or at least trying, builds self-confidence. When parents step-in too often, pointing out every wrong turn that might come their way, showing fear that they believe their child is incapable of succeeding on their ownor helping every step of the way while giving the child very little freedom to make choices for themselves, children may begin to doubt whether they are capable of succeeding on their own.  It’s important when building resiliency that children trust their own skills. Provide mentorship and guidance, let them try the tasks on their own, and don’t be afraid to see them fail.

Trick: If they attempt and don’t succeed, take the opportunity as a teachable moment and discuss perhaps what can be done differently next time. Be sure to focus on the child’s strengths and remain positive. Although they may not always succeed, the important lesson is that they bounce back.

Whether your children are infants or teenagers, it’s never too late to show your child through YOU how to respond to stress and adversity. While some children come by these traits naturally, others will have to work to adopt them, and seeing their parents model these behaviors will help them adjust faster. Show them that you are human, that while you may make mistakes and fail at times, you must pick yourself back up and you must push on.

Some of the tips mentioned here and much, much more (including an in-depth section for our military families) can be found in the book Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings by Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg.
Toddlers and preschoolers often don’t know how to express emotion as a result to stress. Want to help deal with built up tension in a healthy way? Check out our simple yoga routine for toddlers here: 3 Yoga Routines to Relax, Reset and Recharge Your Toddler!

Photo Credits: Stephanie

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Stephanie

Stephanie is a military wife, currently residing in New York, and mama of two exceptionally curious kiddos – a rugged pint-size princess and a toddling Evel Knievel-in-training – and one sweet, easy going baby boy. When she isn’t exploring the family’s newest dwellings, running trails, farmers’ markets, and playgrounds, she spends her down time working from home, feverishly correcting “textspeak” in her college students’ essays as an adjunct English instructor for a local community college. Her passion for writing and photography can be found at Stephanie High Photography on facebook

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