Abby Elder. Provisional Psychologist
An eruption of screaming and fighting pierces your ears. Again. Your eight year old son rushes into the lounge room sobbing and throws himself on the couch next to you. Another fight with his older sister over who gets to choose what game to play together.
‘You are supposed to be having fun and building lifelong memories to be treasured forever!’ You think to yourself. When did having fun become so hard?
If your child sometimes appears to be made of glass, try these 9 ways to build resilience, or the ability to recover from the inevitable disappointments and challenges of life.
Encourage a practice of gratitude and excitement by asking your child to identify one thing they are looking forward to the next day.
2. Define resilience in age appropriate ways
Look for examples in nature like a tree that has continued to grow despite a concrete barrier. Or name some models of a can do attitude in literature or film.
3. Practise the calm
How do you feel when you are told to just calm down? Most adults know the bubbling rage that this phrase can instill yet we continue to use this command when a child is overwhelmed. Instead try practicing the calm with your child every day, like taking a vitamin supplement. This can be a three minute body scan that encourages your child to be more aware of body sensations that are signals they need help. Or try green grounding, which encourages a short connection to nature. Think setting a five minute timer on your phone and going cloud gazing. The key to practicing the calm is scheduling it every day at a time when it is achievable.
4. Check your own reactions and expectations
Emotions are catching. Children can perceive when we have unrealistic expectations that we are placing on them. Such as, my child should be invited to every birthday party thrown by every classmate. Or, I am a terrible parent because my child is struggling to comprehend long division. Try practising some short, self compassion meditations that will build your own resilience.
5. Encourage problem solving, don’t solve the problem
Resiliency is not a force field that repels life’s problems. It’s the confidence that no matter what problem we are faced with there are solutions. Problem solving just like any skill needs to be learned. Parents often want to swoop in and solve their child’s problems, however this is taking away the opportunity from your child to learn how to solve their own problems.
6. Skill building missions
Plan for ways your child can prove to herself she is a problem solver. Let her pay for the produce next time you duck into the shops. Bite your tongue when your five year old picks an outfit that slightly clashes, at least they are dressed! Encourage your 11 year old to create a menu of family dinners.
7. Call out your own fragile behaviour, but don’t shame it
Name when you are feeling a bit fragile, and role model problem solving through the uncomfortable feelings to your child.
8. Acknowledge the good when it happens
We are good at identifying the tough times but we often do not pause and say how great things are going. By acknowledging the good we remind our children that nothing is permanent, the bad times come, and then so do the good times.
9. Encourage accountability
Resiliency is about doing what we can with what we have. Encourage your child to name what is in their control the next time they are having a tough time. This will make the path to solutions more clear.
For support for you or your child/ren, learn more about our online parenting program