When life throws us punches, a get-right-back-up attitude will help us bounce back and move on, and not grow depressed and despair. To help kids develop this sort of emotional strength, parents need to promote resilience, starting right now. Resilience can be reinforced and encouraged at any age, and some studies have shown that the earlier kids learn it, the better it will serve them. These three elements have been shown to help:
- Offer kids a supportive environment to build their self-confidence. It’s important to remember that when children have a hard time, we shouldn’t belittle or ignore their struggles, which can make them feel alone, overwhelmed, and unimportant. If we support kids and listen to their issues, even when their little problems seem silly to us adults, kids will develop the confidence and hope they need to move on, even after a really difficult or traumatic event.
- Always promote hope and optimism at home, in the face of struggles big and small. Whether your child is having a hard time with math, or your family is dealing with a move or a loss, finding ways to stay positive will teach kids a lesson in overcoming adversity. Share memories of happier times together, and remind them that there will always be more happy times ahead, even if things are really, really hard right now.
When a struggle feels insurmountable, or if kids feel they’re struggling alone, they might develop a sense of despair instead of hope or possibility for a better future. Kids learn mostly by example, so you can promote this attitude by practicing it yourself. When you get sick or have car trouble, for instance, don’t overreact so they think it’s the end of the world. Stay focused on a positive outcome, keep your chin up even when you’re upset, and they will learn from you.
- Teach kids to problem solve, in big ways and small. This also builds the confidence and hope they’ll need to feel like they can fix or overcome whatever issues they face later. Invite your kids to help you with small problems you might encounter, like fixing a flat tire or troubleshooting a computer problem (or simply ask that they be supportive while you handle these tasks). Have them help care for an injured pet or sick relative. There are countless opportunities every day to show our kids how to solve problems and stay positive while they’re doing it.
Lorraine Allen is a writer and mom to one spunky first grader and one squirrel-obsessed dog. You can follow their allergy-friendly cooking adventures at Feeding Lina.