When our children are born, we just want to soak up their sweetness and hold them close. It’s hard to imagine that we must teach them grit and resilience when they are warm, snuggly bundles in our arms. And if we’re honest, many of us don’t want to imagine our children growing up in circumstances that require grit.
We hope that they will have fun, happy childhoods with no painful failures or exposure to the ugly realities of life. Despite our desire to protect them, though, learning resilience is important. And it doesn’t have to be as hard as we might think.
Helping children develop resilience rests in some part on the very social and emotional skills important for all success in life.
Children will automatically absorb how their parents react to stress and hardship. What kind of reaction and behavior do you want to model to your kids? While nobody’s perfect and everyone will make mistakes, it’s very helpful to establish your own emotional resilience if you want your kids to learn it.
One way to do this is to express and talk about what difficulties you may experience. For example, if you’re struggling with a co-worker, you can model creative problem solving and verbal processing. Let your kids see you talking openly about a problem and working through it.
Create Close Relationships
The ability to withstand difficulty is strengthened when people have others to fall back on. As with the example above, knowing that they have someone to talk with about their struggles is very important. Close relationships with you and other adults provide a safe place to talk things through.
Create a Sense of Safety
Besides having a safe person to open up to about their feelings, children also need to know they have a refuge from the outside world. They need the ability to retreat to a place that feels safe and comforting, where they know they are loved and accepted.
Hopefully, your home can be this place. Consciously make an effort to keep your home calm, peaceful, and loving.
When an entire nation is struggling with many unsettling issues, it’s easy for kids to get overwhelmed. While it’s important for kids to have some understanding of current events, it’s important to limit the news they receive and how long they view it.
When they watch or hear news, take time to discuss it with them. Ask them what they think and how they feel. Model hope and courage for them. Don’t allow yourself to be overcome with negativity and pass this fear onto them.
Much of being resilient has to do with persisting and adapting in the face of challenges. One way to help children learn this skill is to help them set goals to work toward.
Perhaps they must earn points by doing household chores in order to get the new video game they want. Or perhaps they need to raise their grades by consistently doing homework.
Assist them in laying out the steps required for these goals. Encourage them along the way and help them keep going.
Basic elements of good self-care help everyone to handle stress. This includes getting adequate sleep, eating a nutritious diet, exercising, and learning to be aware of one’s emotions and reactions to different situations. Again, this is something you can model for your children.
As you take steps like these, you’ll be helping your children build the grit they’ll need to take on life’s challenges with strength and determination. If you run into roadblocks along the way, reaching out to a therapist can also be an important part of teaching resilience.