Resilience is the ability to feel good about yourself in this very changing and chaotic world. Each person is like a rope bridge, and as the bridge swings back and forth, it rubs against rocks and gets worn down – life wears it down. It’s important to have a strong rope with a good coating on it, so that bridge doesn’t break. Resilience provides that coating.
Resilience can help every child be a star – in their own mind and out in the world. A resilient child will be less likely to choose to take drugs, choose to be a bully, or feel anxiety. Resilience creates a strong sense of self and enjoyment of self.
Resilient children are free to experience new things, and venture out and enjoy life. Resilience protects the child from damage, without isolating them from the world.
These five points will help build that resilience:
Self-care: A good example of self-care to explain to a child is why we’re instructed to put on our own oxygen mask before helping someone else. Explain how self-care is superior to self-sacrifice (putting the mask on the other person first) or selfishness (stealing someone else’s mask). Give the child permission, at any age, to take care of his or her own needs – mind, body and soul.
Ability to cheer oneself up: Teach the child that all emotions are normal, it’s possible to have more than one emotion at a time, and each emotion can be worked out somehow. You can dance it out, cry it out, sing it out, jump it out, draw it out, play it out; no matter what the emotion is, they can work it out anyway they choose, provided they’re not hurting themselves or someone else. It’s not about parents telling children to just “cheer up,” children need to buy into this and adopt the process so they can use it themselves.
Pathways of appreciation and gratitude: When we feel appreciation and gratitude, the electrical energy around our hearts is equivalent to when an athlete is at their prime. Teach a child to appreciate the beauty of scenery, or the sound of music, or how their pet barks happily as it runs through the yard. Use all five senses to embrace whatever the situation. Gratitude is about taking a moment to express thanks for the people and things in your life, and what they give to you.
Self-value: Give the child the opportunity to celebrate their own value, e.g., after achieving a goal they’ve set, or making their best effort at something. Help them acknowledge themselves for deciding to do something and then actually making it happen. Good report cards and awards are one thing, but make sure you also make room for impromptu celebrations and acknowledgements, e.g., “You’ve done a great job of taking care of the dog this week. Look how happy he is.”
Connections: Humans are relational beings, and we thrive on connection with other beings, whether animals, plants or other people. Help your child to make those connections, whether it’s sending Facebook messages back and forth to their grandmother, joining a sports team, going on a nature walk, or volunteering at an animal shelter. Talk to your child about the value that other beings bring to our lives. This will encourage the child to put the effort into keeping those connections alive, instead of just sitting back and relying on them to just happen.
All five of these points can be geared to a child of any age. Even a very young child can learn to take care of themselves. A teenager can learn the value of cheering themselves up, honouring a feeling but then letting it go and letting in a more positive feeling.
If you want to build resilience in your children, revisit these five points throughout the child’s life, and adjust them according to the child’s level of understanding and developmental needs. These ways of thinking will build a foundation for them to be resilient adults.