Resilience was just a word until a few months ago. It was a word that represented a quality that was aspirational.
“It would be nice if I could find a way to build resilience in my child” parents used to think.
But now, overnight, thanks to the COVID 19 pandemic, resilience has become something that children must necessarily have.
The world has changed. The unknown and the unfamiliar have invaded our comfort zones. And the need to build resilience in your child has become an urgent necessity.
Fortunately, children are born resilient – because they are born to survive. And so, you can easily build resilience in your child if you follow the steps below.
What Is Resilience?
Resilience very simply is the ability to bounce back from failure. And the ability to resist being broken in the face of adversity.
It is the attitude that prompts a child to welcome challenges instead of running away from them. And empowers a child to overcome challenges instead of being crushed by them.
Why Do Children Need To Be Resilient?
Stress, distress, grief, anxiety, failure and rejection are unavoidable and inevitable in life.
In the current times when things are changing rapidly in the world around us, children are even more likely to encounter the above emotions.
When children are not resilient, they are likely to be overwhelmed by these experiences and emotions. It is likely to take them longer to recover from setbacks and failures.
Fear and despair are likely to prompt them to begin to hide from their problems and drive them towards unhealthy, dangerous and destructive behaviors.
When you build resilience in your child, you can increase their chances of meeting life’s problems with confidence and recovering easily from failure.
Where the confidence comes from knowing that they are competent in various ways and knowing that facing challenges will make them stronger than ever before.
When you build resilience in your child they are likely to know how to make the best of every situation.
What Are The Best Ways To Build Resilience In Your Child?
One of the key things to understand and acknowledge before we begin to build resilience is – that it is an ongoing process. It requires mindful actions. And it requires us to learn from our actions.
#1. Be Good Role Model
Children learn about the world from us.
The way we respond to adversity determines what they learn about adversity and about resilience.
Things are not easy for us adults either. We are coping with losses in income and looking for ways to protect and preserve the health and well being of our families in a rapidly changing world.
But as we encounter challenges – we must remember that we are constantly being watched. And that we need to keep our attitudes right if we want to build resilience in our children.
How to be a good role model for resilience
- Look at your problems with a “problem-solving attitude”.
- Constantly look for ways to change with the changing world. Upskill yourself to be ready for the new world.
- Count your blessings every day.
- Emphasize to your child that we are here to give and not to grab. And that doing good is the ultimate purpose of life.
#2. Build Strong Connection With Your Child
The most important thing that keeps a child from sinking into despair when they are faced with adversity is the knowledge that they are not alone.
All of us love our children. But very often our children feel alone, lonely, unloved and not resilient because we don’t make the effort to convey what we think and feel to them.
Because we love our children so much – we invest a lot of time, energy, effort and money into bringing them up. Naturally, when our investment is so high, we expect returns that match.
As a result, most of our interactions with our children are demanding, critical and loaded with comparisons.
This makes children feel small and unworthy of our love. And when they feel unloved, they feel alone. And they do not feel strong and resilient.
Several times when I ask teenagers what the main cause of their stress is. Most teens reply that they are most stressed because of their parents.
It saddens me beyond words that children feel this way about the people who love them the most in this world.
The only way to reassure your child of your love is to build a strong connection with them.
How to build a strong connection with the aim of building resilience in your child
- Spend time with your child
- Do not constantly teach your child something in your together time
- Listen to your child
- Do not criticize
- Never compare your child with other children
- Tell your child that you are on their team and that together both of you can overcome any challenge.
#3. Express Negative Emotions
Disappointment and conflict are a normal part of life. And every human being – adult or child – is bound to have negative emotions when they experience these.
As parents we want to keep our children safe from these experiences. And in order to do that we hide our negative emotions.
We smile when we are sad. We become distant when we are upset or angry. And so on.
We think that by doing this we are protecting our children from the evils of the world. But that does not happen.
When children see us suppressing our negative emotions, they begin to believe that negative emotions are wrong, bad and unacceptable.
They get frightened when they experience these negative emotions and they get terrified when someone outside the family – like a friend or a teacher expresses negative emotions.
Fear then breaks their determination and resilience.
How to express your negative emotions to build resilience in your child
- Tell your child the name of your negative emotion. Say –“I am sad.” Or – “I am angry.”
- Explain the cause of your negative emotion so that your child knows that they are not the cause.
- Express your negative emotion without shouting, screaming, or blaming
- Have a problem-solving attitude towards the cause of your negative emotion. Be the victor in every situation and not the victim.
#4. Teach Communication Skills
Children feel resilient, powerful and unafraid of challenges when they know that they can communicate.
When you build your child’s communication skills you build resilience in your child because you teach your child how to ask for what they need.
You also teach your child to stand up for themselves without turning aggressive and without being passive.
How to teach communication skills to build resilience
- Listen carefully. When we listen to children, they develop the confidence to speak.
- Express yourself in clear words and in a calm voice whenever you speak.
- Do not speak for your child when they need something outside the house. Allow them to speak for themselves at parties and at restaurants.
- Allow your child to resolve conflicts with other children. Do not step into every fight
- Ask your child to communicate with the teacher when they have questions. Do not keep sending notes or going to school to speak with the teacher to clarify doubts.
#5. Make Your Expectations Clear
Our children want to please us. They want us to be happy. They want our approval.
When they have our approval it arms them against the disapproval of the world and makes them resilient.
That is why they are always on the alert for our expectations.
It is important to have the highest expectations from children because when we don’t expect anything from children, they begin to feel worthless.
Expectations, however, must be age and personality appropriate and eventually be guided by what the child wants to achieve while adhering to family values.
Rigid and unforgiving expectations can damage the child’s self-esteem because they can never live up to them.
It is also very important to state very clearly to your child what you expect and why.
The reason should always be because you think your child is capable and because you want your child to achieve their goal.
Not because you want to fulfill your dreams through your child or bask in the reflected glory of your child’s achievements.
Not stating your expectations clearly can result in your child imagining what you expect and feeling small and inadequate all the time.
It is impossible to build resilience in your child if they feel worthless or if they have low self-esteem.
That is why you must ensure that you have the right expectations, that you communicate them correctly and that you help your child to aspire towards them with confidence.
How to state your expectations to build resilience in your child
- Audit your expectations and see if your expectations are appropriate with regard to your child’s age and personality.
- Always have positive expectations and convey the same. Do not fill your child with fear by stating negative expectations.
- Tell your child that you believe that they can do it because you know that they are capable and hardworking.
- Make sure your expectations match your child’s goals and state that clearly
- Constantly reiterate that you are on your child’s team and that you will be a strong partner in your child’s journey towards their goal.
#6. Express Empathy
Change is not easy for anyone. It is as difficult for your child to cope with as it is for you. And you need to show your child that you understand.
When your child is facing a situation that is causing worry and fear, they are not waiting for you to come and rescue them.
All they want is for you to understand. Your child needs an empathetic parent, who will understand erratic behavior because of stress.
Your child needs a parent who will quickly forgive and forget.
Your child needs a strong person who will know when a pep talk is required and when a few moments of silent solidarity will do the trick.
How to express empathy to bring up a resilient child
- Listen to what your child says. The first step towards understanding a person is to listen to them actively. The object of listening should be to understand and not to reply or to solve the problem at hand.
- Never say things like “There is nothing to worry about”
- Don’t judge your child for feeling the way that they do.
- Don’t try to fix your child’s problems.
- Help them to find a way out of the situation that works for them.
#7. Encourage Calculated Risk-Taking
As parents, we worry about our children’s wellbeing. We want them to be happy. We want them to succeed. And that is why we often direct them towards things that are safe.
We tell them not to climb the tree because they may fall. We ask them to pick the easier topic in the debate so that they win. And so on.
But staying in safe zones makes children complacent.
They begin to enjoy their comfort zones and it makes them reluctant to step out of their comfort zones and take risks.
As the world changes, however, all of us will have to step out of our comfort zones. For the simple reason that the comfort zones will no longer exist.
If you teach your child to be courageous and take calculated risks – your child will forge ahead and be resilient in the face of changes and challenges.
The important thing to remember here is that the risk must be a calculated risk.
A calculated risk is one that is based on building knowledge and building ability. It is not something that is done with recklessness. But something that is done with courage based on hard work.
How to encourage calculated risk-taking with the aim of building resilience
- Help children to look in new directions and attempt things that they have never attempted before.
- Show your child how to build their abilities and skills
- Convince your child that failures are just stepping stones to success.
- Always stay on your child’s team and let them know that you have their back if they fail
#8. Constantly Build Physical Strength And Stamina
Only a resilient body can house a resilient mind. Before you build mental resilience in your child – build their physical resilience and stamina.
Success is never a short sprint away. Success always lies at the end of a long and difficult marathon. And unless you keep going despite feeling tired – you will never succeed.
When a child is used to pushing themselves physically on the field, in physical activities, they are much more likely to be able to push themselves mentally.
How to build a child’s physical resilience
- Ensure that your child has a routine of exercising every day.
- Encourage your child to run or swim or play a game where they must keep pushing themselves to reach bigger goals.
- Exercise yourself. Instruction does not work. Inspiration does.
#9. Ensure Structure And Routine (Sleep)
Children who do not get stressed easily are the ones who will be resilient. If you want to build resilience in your child – ensure that you reduce your child’s stress.
One of the surprising and lesser-known ways to reduce stress is – to have a routine.
When a child lives in a house where a structure exists and a routine is followed, the child feels safe. This reduces the child’s stress and increases their courage to face and overcome challenges.
How to institute structure and routine to build resilience
- Make sure bedtime remains constant for your child and your child gets enough sleep
- Ensure that meals are ready on time and the routine permits you to have at least one meal a day with your child.
- Plan your child’s activities and academics such that they allow your child to take care of themselves to maintain hygiene, health and do chores.
#10. Insist On Healthy Eating
We are what we eat. When we eat food that has nutrients that truly nourish us – we have physical stamina and mental resilience.
When children eat food that is packaged, processed and loaded with bad carbohydrates and trans fats, it weakens the body and the brain.
Resilience is as much a function of the body as it is of the brain.
Processed refined carbs cannot provide endurance and stamina to the muscles of your child’s body. Bad carbohydrates are also unable to support the functions of the brain.
A child who eats too many bad carbs will have blood sugar spikes that will result in low concentration.
This will be followed by blood sugar crashes resulting in lethargy and panic that will lead to tantrums.
Both blood sugar spikes and crashes will lead to the child not being able to process information adequately and not being able to think.
This would result in the child failing at tasks and losing self-esteem.
If you want to build resilience in your child – the easiest way would be to stop buying junk food and start eating healthy food.
How to get your child to eat healthy food
- Fix regular mealtimes
- Do not buy packaged processed food or junk food
- Cook meals at home using fresh locally available ingredients.
- Use recipes that make tasty dishes with whole unrefined ingredients.
#11. Practice Gratitude
When we know that we have something more than others it keeps us motivated to keep pushing ourselves. It makes us resilient in the face of challenges and difficulties.
The easiest way to remind ourselves of what we have is to bow our heads in gratitude every day.
Children who are taught that they must thank the universe for what they have before they ask for more – begin to feel powerful.
Teaching your child to be grateful therefore is the easiest way to build resilience in your child.
How to practice gratitude to build resilience
- At dinner time or just before going to bed – ask your child to enumerate 3 things they are grateful for on that day.
- Write down things your child is grateful for and put them into a jar. At the end of each month make a display to remind your child how lucky they are.
Research shows that when we feel completely defeated – the one thing that can keep us going is the belief that we are doing something meaningful.
The knowledge that we are doing something that is making a difference to the world or at least to one person in the world.
Often when children fail, they feel worthless. And in these times of stress, they sometimes resort to drastic measures like trying to end their lives.
However, drastic measures like suicide are not something a resilient child will ever think of.
So how can you build such resilience into your child?
Resilience, in times when a child is feeling worthless – comes from knowing that they are doing something worthwhile.
From knowing that they are contributing and making a difference to someone’s life.
Since failure is inevitable. We must show children that they are worthwhile by helping them do something meaningful.
That is the only way to build resilience in the face of failure.
How to help your child contribute
- Make a list of your child’s skills and abilities and map it out against those who can use these skills.
- Schedule time every week to participate in your child’s effort to contribute.
- Show them how they are making a difference.
Resilience sounds like a complicated word and an even more complicated concept to explain to a child.
However, whether we teach our children the difficult word or not, we must ensure that we build resilience in them.
And building resilience in your child, fortunately, is not as difficult as it sounds.
When you build resilience in your child – you are essentially building confidence. The confidence to overcome challenges through working on building competence.
The confidence that ultimately convinces your child that the only way to get better is to plunge into challenges.