Teaching resilience to children

Resilient people are aware of their thoughts and can do something to help themselves.

There are so many worries today. Children, and their families, are worrying about climate change, political upheavals, war, migration, etc. We need to help children become more resilient. They need help coping with day-to-day worries  and uncertainty in healthier ways. 

Here are some ways parents and other important adults can help:

  1. Build self-regulation in the children. This includes behavioral, cognitive, and emotional self-regulation. Through self-regulation, children learn to control their impulses and moderate their thinking and emotions. 
  2. Nurture feelings of optimism. This is a difficult one because of all the going on in the world. Find something positive about things the child worries about. What are some things being done to alleviate the problem? This means that you need to deal with your own feelings and make sure the child isn’t feeding off your anxiety.
  3. Develop beliefs in their own resilience. Help children understand how strong they are and how well they cope with problems. 
  1. Teach ways to cope with anxiety and worry. Use strategies like Distracting, Dismissing, Displacing, and Distancing (spark* News, July/August 2019). Sometimes, thinking about other, more pleasant things (Distracting) can give a few moments of relief. Putting the worries away for a while (Dismissing and Displacing) can let the child think about other things. Thinking like someone else (What would Greta Thunberg or Sir David Attenborough do?) can help put the energy from worry on a more productive road. 
  2. Look for role models for positive action and support. This can involve the person used in Distancing worries. It helps the child think beyond themselves to people who are trying to do something to remedy a problem. Encourage the child to communicate with the role model.  
  3. Find social networks. Look for family members, neighbors, teachers, religious leaders who can foster optimism. These people provide perspective and support in times of need. There may be groups doing things to help, like cleaning up litter, feeding homeless people, or even lobbying legislators.

Photo by Etty Fidele on Unsplash

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