Published on April 18th, 2014 | by Joanna Holman
Resilience in Children: Big Ideas for Small People
We’d all like to be emotionally resilient people; the kind of people who respond in emotionally healthy ways to whatever challenges we face in life. No doubt we all hope the same for the children in our lives, whether they’re our own children or other children we care about.
We can help make that happen.
In a Psychology Today article on the topic of resilience, Brad Waters says that emotionally resilient people demonstrate the following 10 traits:
1. They know their boundaries
2. They keep good company
3. They cultivate self-awareness
4. They practice acceptance
5. They’re willing to sit in silence
6. They don’t have to have all the answers
7. They have a menu of self-care habits
8. They enlist their team
9. They consider the possibilities
10. They get out of their head
Some of these may seem like big, adult sized ideas, but with a bit of creativity they can be adapted to help children as well.
A big part of cultivating self awareness and getting things out of your head is being able to articulate what you’re feeling. One way to help kids with this is to provide them with ways of describing their feelings that they can understand.
A wonderful example was recently posted on the blog Something for Leena. In She Gave Us Buckets, Leena’s son was taught to describe his emotional state as a bucket that sometimes is full and sometimes needs filling. Simple, concrete concepts like these can help kids discuss abstract ideas like feelings.
Wyn Associate Editor Amy talks about helping children try feeling various emotions and then letting them go in her article Words Are Powerful, But Sometimes They Aren’t Enough.
You can help kids to enlist their team and keep good company if they’re the type who would struggle to reach out on their own. It starts with you being the kind of person they feel safe to come to, a person who will take them and their problems seriously without overreacting. Then it can mean helping them find other supportive adults or activities where they can develop friendships with safe people. Talk with them about the traits that make good friends and help them analyse their relationships to determine which friendships to pursue more deeply.
You’ll probably have trouble getting your kids to sit in their room quietly, but maybe they’d be willing to sit outside quietly watching the stars. Try setting out a blanket on a hillside and watching the clouds float by. Or walk silently through the woods and sit on a fallen log, listening for birds.
If you practice some kind of stretching-based exercise like yoga, pilates, or Tai Chi that helps you be calm and quiet, introduce them to a kid-friendly adaptation.
Considering the possibilities is a trait kids are especially well equipped for because many are in touch with their imaginative sides. The kid in your life may find it useful for you to help them brainstorm ways things could become better.
As you’re trying to raise resilient kids, you’ll find that you don’t have all the answers. That’s okay! You instill resilience in children by modeling this as well. Simply say, “I don’t know. Let’s look it up together.”
Photo by Ned Horton