Sunday, 22 March 2015

How to help your child become more resilient

how to help your child become resilient
Have you got a sensitive child? Mr B is super sensitive. I remember telling a child care worker this when he first started at his day-care, aged 2. She virtually rolled her eyes and said 'They all are!', which I thought was a bit harsh at the time.

But we've had several other staff tell us over the years that he is in fact a super-sensitive kid and needs to work on his resilience. Resilience is that ability to bounce back from the moments where things don't go so well - when friends won't share, when games won't be won, when drawings don't go as planned. Mr B's first reaction to these sorts of things has been to cry. In the most beautiful way, he is highly emotional and caring. Even now, we can't get past the opening scenes of Finding Nemo without stopping for a weep and a cuddle.

With Mr B starting school this year, I decided to attend a Resilient Kids workshop to make sure we were dealing with his emotions most effectively. I was familiar with the basics: encourage feelings, allow room for tears and work on problem-solving skills. But it turns out it's not quite as simple as this.

So, how to help your child become resilient? Here are some things that stood out to me:

What's your own resilience like? 

I get that as parents, we're role models, but I didn't think much about my own resilience and what I look like to my son when I'm dealing with life. Do I look like I'm coping? Does he see me stressed out or do I appear to be dealing with things calmly? Geez, there are plenty of times that he sees me wound up. I will definitely be checking myself tomorrow morning during the getting-ready-for-school craziness.

Relaxing

There was a lot of talk about introducing relaxation exercises to the family like deep-breathing and calming music. This sounded very sweet in theory, but in my head I went, 'Yeah right! Isn't relaxation what the telly is for?!' and shrugged it off. But then someone in the group mentioned that they have 30 minutes of quiet time everyday for the whole family, where everyone does something quietly in their own space, like reading books. I really like this idea. I could spend 30 minutes drinking a whole, hot cup of tea....sounds dreamy. I'll put it on my list.

how to help your child become resilient

There are no negative emotions, just emotions

I don't know about you, but I've always labelled emotions as being positive and negative. Happy, excited and energised are positive emotions. Sadness, fear and anxiety are negatives. Now I suddenly see how damaging that is. If we label a feeling as being negative, then the implicit message is that we need to be rid of it as quickly as possible. But this isn't the case. Feeling sad is just another emotion that needs to be processed. It shouldn't be rushed away. And I shouldn't teach my children that there are good and bad feelings.

Let your child find the solutions

I have to admit, I like to help Mr B find answers to his problems. I love helping and demonstrating my worldly experience! But this isn't so helpful if I want to promote his resilience. I need to step back and prompt him to come with his own ideas and solutions. Or he just won't learn to do it himself. After all, I'm not there with him at school for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. He needs to be able to fend for himself (sob).

Give emotions their space

Another light bulb moment for me. When Mr B was unhappy last month about not finding friends in the first few days of school, I dove straight in with the advice: 'Don't ask to play with someone, just join in.' 'Ask someone their name tomorrow.' 'Make sure you smile at people.' But I didn't spend enough time talking through his emotions with him - so going in too early with the problem-solving fell on deaf ears because of the space he was in. Kids who are in an emotional state can't hear reasoning. By spending more time reflecting on his feelings, Mr B can move onto problem-solving with a clearer head. Makes sense, right?

So, what do you think? Have you got a child in your life that could do with some resilience-building? Or have you been able to help your own child develop some of these skills? Would love to hear about it! 

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