There is a rumor going around that children are naturally resilient. While human beings are wired to survive (thank you ancestors), psychological resilience is a learned skill. Mental toughness, in our ourselves and our children, is a buildable and teachable mindset and skillset.
Let us start by defining resilience, instead of simply using the word as a punchline. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties in order to continue moving forward. The main point of this definition is that, in our complex social world, humans will face obstacles. Teaching our children how to spring back into shape after a setback is teaching them not just how to survive, but how to thrive.
Subjective experience of difficulty should never deter us from learning the fundamentals of resilience. Parents, the world we are currently experiencing is not the same as the one of our youth. Information was not at our fingertips. Instant gratification was less abundant. Self-regulation was built into the fabric of our lives.
Children now have abundance of information, entertainment, and increased ease. Yet, rates of discontent and unhappiness are rising! In service to the generations that follow our own, we need to teach resilience. If you have not yet viewed, ‘The Social Dilemma’, have a gander and know that the counterbalance to this dilemma is, in my opinion, psychological resilience.
Key Skills for building the foundation of Resilience
There are mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual skills that every child should possess in order to navigate this stimulus-rich environment. When parents model these skills, children shift. Start helping your family today by building the foundation of resilience with these bedrock skills.
The cornerstone of resilience is developing a growth mindset. Based on science (Dweck, 2006), this mindset helps all human beings to understand that success in any area of life will depend on learning. A growth mindset is used widely in educational settings, yet is underutilized in parenting.
How we praise our children matters. The simple Pollyanna platitudes will likely do more harm than good for children. Switching the language you utilize in praising your children will help them recognize their personal strengths and use them more readily.
Kids are facing social threats more frequently now than ever. Social media and the accessibility of influence can strip our kids of self-worth. Supplying your children with skills in emotional resilience is necessary for them to overcome our anxiety-ridden world.
The foundational skill for developing emotional intelligence is self-awareness. Though metacognition (thinking about our thinking) is not readily utilized for children under the age of 10, it is a foundation on which children can build. Help your child name the experience of an emotion, and allow it to be a temporary state.
The human body is not like the energizer bunny. We are rechargeable, yet most Americans keep overtaxing their energy supplies. Children are notorious for wanting to avoid “the recharge” available to us through sleep.
Help your children develop proper sleep hygiene. Co-create a space for your kids to hold sleep as sacred. This space can be held as a battery station that should be clean of dust and debris of any kind. By dust and debris, mainly focus on any sort of stimulus. Lose the TVs, phones, and any other form of blue light at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. This goes for parents too.
Human beings are hard-wired to belong. Imagine a caveman living without his cavewoman. Our children are no different. They want to know that they are significant and that they matter in your family.
Building belonging in your family is a foundation whose benefits will be realized for years to come. Start with active listening. The old adage that children should be seen and not heard is garbage. While their opinions don’t need to rule your house, they should at the very least be heard so that you may lead with a full understanding of their personal values.
Our families are being required to develop resilience in the current climate. The trick is knowing that there are resources available to build that spring back effect without added stress. We can increase harmony, improve communication skills, and cultivate positive emotions even when we are facing adversity.
For a deeper dive into family resilience, A Brighter Purpose, llc offers a 12-week training called Brighter Family Experience. Along with other parent leaders, participants build evidence-based skills for helping their own families rebound from obstacles faster and stronger.