We all know someone who is resilient; who seems to be able to face obstacles and bounce back time after time. It is easy to assume that they were just born with the resiliency gene. Not so. Resiliency is a skill, a way of thinking, a way of doing that can be taught. Resilience is the ability to overcome difficult experiences and be shaped for the better by them. There are very strategic actions parent can take to increase their children’s resiliency.
- Don’t jump in and rescue your child from a challenge or struggle. Act as a guide on the side and let them know you understand it is hard, but you know they can figure it out. Encourage them to push forward. This is critical to helping build resiliency. It lets your child know you believe in them. Every time they make it through, they have learned they can struggle through things and succeed.
- Let your child experience disappointment. Not everyone gets picked to be the lead in the school play. It is tempting to jump in and call the teacher or whomever you think can save your child. But the fact is not everyone wins. We all must face disappointment, but to help your children learn to cope with it now will teach them they can make it through in the future. Often being denied one opportunity opens the doors to other possibilities.
- Don’t let your child play the Blame Game. You know the one. It is always someone else’s fault they didn’t make the homerun, or they didn’t finish the assignment. Life isn’t always fair, but your children need to recognize their mistakes, own them and then fix them. (As parents we need to do the same). Don’t let your children become victims. Let them be the captains of their ships!
- Help your child to label their feelings. If they can say they are mad they probably won’t hit their sibling. You can empathize with their feelings and ask them what they can do about it. Whether they are sad, lonely, frustrated, naming the feeling helps get it out in the open so they can face it and decide how to move on.
- Celebrate the effort not the outcome. If the only time a child gets positive feedback is if they get an A or win first place, they will do anything to get those-even if it means cheating. Resiliency is nurtured by cheering the effort. What a gift to give your child, to be able to enjoy and be appreciated for the journey.
Resiliency can be learned. Life is full of opportunities for these lessons to be taught. Be intentional about helping your children learn how strong they really are and how proud you are of them for not giving up. Catch them struggling with hard things and encourage them to keep trying. Teaching resiliency now is one of the greatest tools you can give your children to help them navigate all the ups and downs they will face in their future and help them believe in themselves.
By Barbara Smith, Director, Utah Family Partnership Network