The following sections will provide the final 3 out of 5 distinct methods that will generate a foundation of resilience in our children.
#3 Provide Opportunities for Skill Development
A major component of resilience is skill development. If there aren’t obvious opportunities for involvement, create them. A 7-year-old will be capable of different tasks than a 3-year-old, yet both need opportunities to develop skills. When preparing a meal and your child asks if they can help, enlist them! Even if they don’t offer, enlist them! A family means everyone pitches in to functionally operate. Perhaps one can help set the table, sweep the floor, take out the trash, etc. Keep your own expectations in check, it’s possible their performance will not meet your standard. This is normal and should be expected, especially at first. You’ll find as they get more experience their skill level will improve. Building resilience is the long-game, it’ll be frustrating initially, but over time these opportunities to develop skills will pay off when you find how capable they are as they transition into adulthood. Until then – provide opportunities to practice now and cheer them on along the way.
Hard things happen to everyone, what sets people apart is how they respond to adversity.
#4 Pick ‘em up and Brush ‘em off
Falling short is a normal and valuable aspect of life. As a parent it is incredibly tempting to allow my emotions to take over and fix the problem for my child. Resist this urge and ask yourself how you can assist your child to resolve the problem themselves. Allowing your child to face a challenge will be incredibly empowering, especially as they know you’re in ‘their corner’ and are cheering them on. When they fall short, pick them off and brush them off, and let them know how proud of them you are for putting in the effort even if they didn’t meet the desired result. This will teach an incredibly valuable lesson; that as long as they truly put in their best effort, it was more than enough to be proud of. Make note that this is not an invitation for complacency – their sincere effort is always worth your praise.
#5 Empower Them to Discover their Self-worth
Hard things happen to everyone, what sets people apart is how they respond to adversity. Remind your child how capable they are, describe attributes you’ve observed in them that will increase their ability to succeed. If you don’t believe they can do it, why should they believe in themselves? There is very little benefit of perceiving oneself as a victim. Teach and model how casting blame is far less important than devising solutions. Creating excuses for your child may ease your own sense of discomfort right now, however this will conjure a self-narrative for your child that you don’t believe they are capable, and the worst part is they’ll come to accept it and believe it themselves. Shifting blame and making excuses distort one’s innate sense of accountability. This is because the alternative requires effort, it’s much easier to make excuses than to improve ourselves. As parents we can be both compassionate to their needs and allow them to wade through their own challenges. When we help them see how capable they are they will be much more confident in the wake of adversity. This is likely one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to our children.
Providing our child the opportunity to experience challenges may be one of the most valuable gifts we can offer them. When these hardships are offered in age-appropriate, practical, and controlled settings it can make all the difference for their future. Muscles aren’t strengthened in immobility. Calluses aren’t formed without friction. Character isn’t developed in blissful paradise. Resilience too, is built upon purposeful challenges.
Peter Clegg is the Prevention Coordinator for Tooele County and currently serves as the Chair of the Utah Prevention Network. He first studied Psychology at the University of Utah’s College of Social and Behavioral Science and minored in Human Development and Family Studies. After several years working in community mental health, he shifted his career ‘upstream’ into onset prevention and completed a master’s degree in Health Administration at Weber State University. Peter is a licensed Social Service Worker and a nationally certified Substance Abuse Prevention Skills Trainer. When he’s not spending time with his spouse Courtney and children Tenley and McIntyre, Peter enjoys gardening, hiking, canyoneering, and mountain biking.