A positive attitude and a strong sense of personal competence can equip a child to overcome the little hiccups—and the major setbacks—of life. Find out what it takes to raise a resilient child.
Other simple ways in which parents can instill good coping skills in their children include rephrasing a child’s negative statement with a positive spin. For example if your child says, “I can’t read this book” you could reply, “This one is a bit difficult, but your book last week was also hard and you finished the whole thing by yourself.” Relating your own childhood stories of overcoming hardships can also be encouraging to children and fun for them to hear. Kids love stories that feature mom or dad!
A Secure Home Environment
Another basic requirement for building resilience in children is the provision of a secure and stable home environment. Consistent good experiences at home will give kids a strong enough foundation to prevent them from being toppled by the hardships that come their way. As parents, some of the things that you can do are:
- Help your children to feel that they are loved. You’re not the only one who can encourage this cherished feeling; research has shown that children who develop a strong bond with a family friend or caregiver are no less attached to the parents. The opposite is true, in fact, so involve as many people as possible as members of your child’s inner circle.
- Allow the use of “comforters” such as dolls, blankets or special toys. These can help children to cope more successfully with the stressors of their early years, such as separations from parents.
- Try to protect your children from exposure to “adult” problems. There’s no need for children to be burdened with matters of no concern to them and over which they have no control. If they do become aware of a difficult issue, be sure to help them to understand that it is not their fault.
- Teach your children to solve their own problems. For example, rather than intervening to settle a sibling squabble (as long as no one’s physical safety is at stake), have your children calm down enough to listen to each other’s feelings and then ask them to figure out what they could do to try and fix the problem themselves.
- Give children lots of time to do the things that they are good at doing. It can be tempting—and sometimes necessary—to focus on encouraging kids to improve their weaker skills. Just remember that children also need time to succeed, so give them space to work their areas of competency.
- As your children get older give them some responsibility, both for making decisions and for accomplishing tasks. Let your daughter figure out how to spend her pocket money, for example, even if you can think of a dozen better possible purchases. Ask your son to prepare a simple dinner for the family on a night when you’re busy paying bills at the kitchen table. A child feels a tremendous sense of achievement when the fruit (or meatloaf!) of his labor is actually put into service.
- It has been suggested that belonging to a spiritual community can provide children with support and friendship, and can convey the sense that life has meaning and purpose.
Empower Your Child
In short, empower your child to succeed. Every time a child achieves something, she builds on her belief that she can go on to further successes. You won’t be able to protect your children from the challenges and hardships that are part of life—nor would you want to—but as a parent you are able to assert some influence on the manner in which they will confront them. It might be difficult, it might take work, but you can do it. There’s no such thing as can’t!
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