What Is Resilience and Why Do We Need It?
Resilience can be defined as the ability to recover quickly from difficulties; to be able to strengthen ourselves when faced with adversity. Why do we need it? As a species if we weren’t resilient than we wouldn’t be alive; it’s a simple as that! In order to bounce back from extreme conditions, illness, climate change, and natural disasters, resilience is required.
How Do We Build Resilience?
Your child experiences many things which can bring on stress, especially in our ever-changing world. From screen time, conflict with peers, environmental factors and relationship stress, it is not uncommon to have stress in our lives. Parents face increasingly challenging times in not only understanding their child’s stresses and problems, but also in wondering how to help their child overcome these challenges and be resilient in the face of adversity. Parents often ask themselves, how do I build my child’s confidence in overcoming the problems they face? Here are a couple ideas in increasing your child’s capacity for resilience.
Reframe the Problem
One of the best ways we can teach our children about resilience is to help them learn from their problems rather than focus on them. Shifting from a problem-focused perspective to a solution-focused one, is what we call reframing. Reframing can be accomplished by asking yourself or have your child ask themselves, what can I learn from this? What am I missing here? Is this an opportunity to build a new skill? By looking at the problem as an opportunity to learn or grow, we reframe our perspective from the problem toward a solution.
Accept that Problems Are a Part of Life
No matter what kind of parent you are, children will all eventually experience some type of problem. Whether it is a four-year-old child experiencing the stress of going to kindergarten for the first time, an eight-year-old child experiencing bullying, or a fourteen-year-old youth who is going to high school, it’s all stress for the child experiencing it! Letting your child experience difficulty and learn to cope and manage, will assist them in believing they are capable of navigating adversity. It will help them to be more accepting of challenges and engage their own problem-solving skills. In learning acceptance, a child will have skills to move forward from a challenge in a positive way.
Stop Living for “If Only”
Many of us experience the thought “if only.” It can sound like, “If only I had enough money for… then all of my problems would disappear” or, “If only I could get …. then I would be successful.” The concern with this type of thinking is that there will always be a new problem that pops up once the previous one is resolved. Our children listen and learn from us and start to believe the flawed “If only” statements and subsequently that they should be able to avoid problems from occurring. Research shows that even when we solve a problem, our mind will adjust to our new norm, and then begin to once again look for problems. If we start to change the way we look at problems, rather than thinking, “if only I were able to solve this problem I would be happy” we can learn to live with problems in our lives, accept that this is ok and overall feel a greater sense of contentment.
Encourage Your Child To Adopt a Growth Mindset
Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck (2006) has studied the way our brains work, specifically looking at a fixed versus growth mindset. With individuals who have a fixed mindset, we assume that our intelligence, creative ability and personalities are static, meaning they cannot be changed in any meaningful way. As a result, we tend to think of success as a confirmation of these qualities and therefore we focus on avoiding failure.
With a growth mindset, if we assume that a problem is not evidence of failure but an opportunity to grow, we allow ourselves to change our behaviour, and view success differently. We will also be able to cope better with changes, knowing that we have the skills to overcome it. Ensuring parents and professional’s work with children with a growth mindset framework is key to changing how they see problems and to building resilience!
Allow Your Child To Do Things Themselves
As parents, we can be quick to jump in when we see our child struggling or experiencing sadness, hurt or frustration. We don’t want to see them upset and we want to take away their pain. When we rescue our children, it may diminish their own ability to be self-reliant and motivated to try and figure out how to solve their own problems. Children don’t necessarily need us to solve their problems, in fact, it can sometimes make matters worse. If we continue to interrupt their learning process and “fix” things for them, they lose out on the opportunity to learn from the process of creating or achieving something.
We understand that it can be difficult to watch your child or youth suffering. The next time you see it happening, try offering words of encouragement, recognition for their efforts, or posing them these questions: what do you think the answer is?, or how do you think you can make this situation better? This will support them to come up with the answers themselves and to look inwards, instead of outwards to solve their problems. It will also empower them to have the confidence that they can overcome any adversity, and to not blame others for what they may be experiencing.
Be Purposeful About Finding Positivity
This goes hand in hand with reframing the problem. If we are constantly dwelling on our problems, that is all we will see. It is human nature to focus on the negatives, it’s how our brains are wired. As discussed by Michael Argyle (2001), by being purposeful in finding the positives in situations, we can retrain our brains to think more positively and in turn begin to appreciate what is going well in our lives. Supporting our children in being positive can be easily achieved by having your child start a happiness or gratitude journal. Alternatively, you can start a bedtime ritual where you each name something positive that happened that day. Being purposeful in planning something each day that helps you and your child to identify the positive can help to rewire our brains and see the good in otherwise negative situations, thereby increasing resiliency.
As parents, you play the most important role in your child’s life and therefore have the ability to help your child become more resilient. Just like any new skill, the more it is practiced the easier it becomes. Looking for ways to make resilience building a daily practice can foster a solution-focused mindset in our children and ourselves. We are never too old to learn a new skill and the more your child is able to practice overcoming adversity, the more skilled they will become at doing it while building resiliency along the way!
Argyle, M. (2001). The psychology of happiness (Second Edition). London: Routledge.
Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.