This article by Ms Macpherson, Director of Pastoral Care at the ESMS Junior School, was recently published in MADE magazine.
Building resilience in children is important because it helps them to manage the stresses and challenges of everyday life and develop a positive outlook. Resilient children are also more likely to take healthy risks, trust their own instincts, embrace mistakes and learn to focus on effort rather than the end result. If children do not develop resilience and they are unable to deal with upsets, they may become fearful of change or nervous about trying new things with the possibility of failing at them.
Covid-19 has been a stark reminder that challenges and unexpected stresses can appear when we are least expecting them. It is difficult for children (and adults) to make sense of these sudden changes to their daily routine and to adjust to life at home without their friends, relatives, carers and teachers. Building resilience helps children to navigate these challenges and emerge stronger.
The good news is that as parents we can help our children to develop resilience.
Our Top 10 Tips for Helping Children to Develop Resilience
1. Encourage outdoor play
Trying new things and risky play outdoors helps to build confidence in children. We need to encourage them to go outside of their comfort zone but in a way where they wouldn’t be hurt if it doesn’t go to plan. Exploring nature helps children’s brains to develop so try and get outside regularly.
2. Don't solve problems for them
As a parent, we instinctively want to help our children and to solve problems for them but problem solving is a skill that can help children to become more resilient. To assist them with this, ask them questions and help them to come up with the solution themselves. Ensure they engage in plenty of free play which encourages creativity and curiosity in the world around them and also helps them to solve problems.
3. Work on building a strong emotional connection
When children have a strong emotional connection with their parents or caregivers, they feel safe and sure of themselves. This can be developed through one-on-one time with your children whether this is reading, playing, talking, or doing anything that you enjoy together where you are fully present for them.
4. Help children to regulate their own emotions through mindfulness
Mindfulness is a bit of a buzz word at the moment but for good reason. Mindfulness helps children to reduce stress and to understand and regulate their emotions. They can then calm themselves when they experience stress and work out what they should do. Psychologist, Stan Godek has written some great tips for the children at ESMS which I would recommend reading on our website.
5. Teach children it isn't failure, it's learning
We need to instil the idea that to FAIL is simply the First Attempt At Learning. When children understand this, they don’t crumble in the face of adversity and are able to enjoy learning new things without fearing failure.
6. Be a good role model
We often feel guilty as parents for taking time away from our children but making time to do the things you love is incredibly important. If you are happy and fulfilled it will be easier to inspire your children to be optimistic. Make a list of the things that make you happy and try and do at least one of them once a week.
7. Help them to reframe
We all come up against disappointments in life and one way to overcome them is to reframe the situation. This means helping your children to focus on what they have or can do, rather than what they can’t do or can’t have. Start by acknowledging that you understand it is disappointing and then try and help steer them towards thinking instead about the opportunities that the situation has presented.
8. Be grateful
Grateful children are better able to cope with disappointment and more likely to grow into more positive adults. You can help your child feel thankful by making time each day to talk about three good things that happened.
9. Encourage them to ask for help when they need it
Children may believe they are failing if they ask for help. Let them know that if they have tried their best to do something themselves and find that they can’t, the best thing that they can do is to ask for help.
10. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep
Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep on children’s moods and behaviour. Research has linked the use of devices such as phones and tablets with sleep issues, so it is a good idea to ban screens before bed. You can also help your child get a better night’s sleep by establishing a good bedtime routine. A warm bath, reading stories together and ensuring their bedroom is dark and peaceful can all help. Doing a few relaxation exercises before you switch off the light is also a good idea. I recommend Relax Kids by Marneta Viegas.
We hope that you find these tips from Ms Macpherson helpful.