A child’s inner strength grows from daily practice. A child learns to be strong and take difficulties in their stride if they are informed and practice it. It leads to children becoming resilient. Just as they learned to walk with your help, you can help them develop the emotional strength muscle. Everyday a child faces a multitude of challenges and pressures at school, on the playground, in their peer groups and with family members. Some children are able to handle these challenges but sometimes these challenges overwhelm the child.
Put Things in Perspective
A child can worry and get anxious about handling a situation. Sit down with them and let them speak. Ask them to identify what they see as the real problem. If the child learns to identify the bare bones of the problem they can find answers. Suddenly what seems like a multi-pronged problem that seems to sprout new heads when one is cut, becomes a more manageable problem.
For instance if a child is struggling with a test ahead, the child will learn that perhaps there is a lack of clarity in the concept. This followed by practice can help make things better. For a more ambiguous problem where your child is under pressure to indulge in risky behaviour or lose a friendship, the core problem is probably the fear of being alone. Once the child identifies this she will realise that she can make new friends or hang out with those who do not lay such stipulations to stay friends.
Learn to Manage Their Emotions
Children and teens can have high variability in emotions because they are navigating completely new social situations and constructs. This can lead to a feeling of being stuck and unable to move forward. Again start by listening to them. Validate their emotions and ask them to rate on say a scale of 1 to 10 how strong their emotions are. Ensure they realise that when they are emotional and that if they choose to act upon their emotions there will be consequences some positive, some negative.
Think in Different Ways
Children can learn to see that there are usually many different outcomes to a problem. They can learn that they are limited by the walls of their knowledge and ours too. It is a good idea that critical thinking and emotional thinking be considered while assessing and trying to find a solution. How to solve it is not the only question. How does it make me feel? What do I want to do about it? Will that action make me feel better and grow as a person? What can it lead to beyond just today? Which are the areas of my life that it will impact? These are some of the useful questions a child can ask themselves while building their resilience.
Once you equip your child with these techniques, encourage them to take positive action. Let them take action. Sometimes they will face disappointment, sadness and heartache. Be there to support them, but let them practice taking action. There might be some hits and some misses. Discuss it, but try not to intervene. There might be instances where you may have to, don’t unless you see a risk for the safety of your child.
Make Mistakes and Accept Failure
Kids who think they have to be perfect get exhausted with all the expectations. Children who realise that it is ok to make mistakes or suffer failures is a part of being successful have the strength to carry on with purpose. They learn from their mistakes and move on. Just look at any child learning a new game. They don’t simply slide to becoming perfect. They put in countless hours to learn the rules, practice and excel. Same rules, different playgrounds.
Don’t Encourage ‘The Poor Me’ Complex
Kids will often blame the situation, friends, teachers and even you for not making the mark. Don’t allow them to wallow in their misery. Encourage them to look at ways they could have improved the situation. Tough test? Prepare more, next time? Crabby friend? Leave her alone and give her time to come back and chat? Children who start having a solution oriented rather than a problem oriented mindset will persist.
Children who take on responsibilities are more likely to be self-motivated and independent. Give children responsibilities and very often they outdo our expectations and do the tasks wonderfully. If we keep doing tasks for them and complaining they don’t help, it’s of no use to anyone, especially the child. We must all take a leaf from the Montessori system where children as young as three are responsible for handling their material, do simple everyday tasks like combing their hair or getting dressed. Doing these tasks instills a sense of confidence in children and an ability to take on more responsibilities. Great for building that resilience muscle.
Like all exercises, your child’s resilience will increase with practice and introspection. The child will become emotionally strong and more confident about taking on and handling new situations. They will navigate these experiences better and understand that they have a choice always, whatever the situation. Once they see that they can make a difference, they will thrive independently.