Resilience is the ability to bounce-back after misfortune, harm, sickness or injury. How do we program our child to skillfully navigate through the many challenges they are bound to encounter?
They cannot become hardy warriors by living in a protective bubble. They have to be exposed to a myriad of experiences when they are young. You prepare them. Let them handle things in small doses which will build their self-confidence. Regular exposure expands their perceptions and makes them immune to stress later on. Little difficulties help build hardiness or toughness to deal with what comes their way.
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When kids experience small doses of discomfort and pain while growing up their psyche is tuned to tackle life’s vicissitudes without them feeling helpless and clueless. Experience and real exposure are the best teachers. Their repertoire of skills when you titrate the experiences to build their physical and emotional immunity.
You train them to do their best while preparing them for the worst. Here are the 11 things a child must be exposed to become resilient:
1) Tough But Authentic Love
Real authentic love is the birthright of every child. To be loved for whoever and whatever he really is, not for what he can be or produce. However, there are times that one has to stand firm and say a firm ‘No.’ Your child needs to know that not every time can things go ‘my way’ and I have to be considerate of people and situations – that the world just does not revolve around me.
Your child learns discipline watching how you manage your daily life. They are always watching, what we do and how we behave. When we keep our promises and stick to plan we show our kid how they can be in control of their lives. Nonetheless, we need to allow them to experience what happens when they don’t control their impulses or temper. It is a tightrope balancing act to stand back without spouting the common phrase “I told you so’ rather let go your ego and just help your child to get his act together.
3) Mess, Dirt & Germs
Stop overdoing the cleanliness bit. Science has proved that dirt and germs are good for developing immunity. When we sterilize our surfaces their immune systems become hyper-sensitized. Not sanitizing your kids’ environment builds antibodies which help them fight germs and infections. So let them play in the dirt and hug the dog and eat their food without pestering them to wash and sanitize their hands.They are going to be fine.
4) Failure & Success
Pushing our kids to always be first does not bode well in the long run. They need to know that despite their best efforts they may not always succeed but that’s okay. What matters is they tried and that there is always the next time. Failures teach them that life is full of ups and downs. Success and failure are not permanent states. Life can get better and who knows what surprises tomorrow will bring. In the meanwhile just do your best.
5) Value of Money
As a parent, however, you have to teach your child to value money, how to earn, spend and save it. It is important they know that money does not grow on trees and they need to learn how to control their intemperate desires. Studies have shown that the ability to delay gratification can also predict how successful one will be as a grown-up.
Nothing develops resilience than a daily dose of chores. From an early age, a child must know that he is responsible for things running smoothly in the house. And he has to contribute his share. Start when he is small, simple things like picking his plate from the table to clearing the table, to washing up. And please don’t bribe them or pay them to do chores. Exposure to work from a young age gives your child the message that life is not just a walk in the park. Knowing they have to work prepares them to deal with working for a living.
7) Handling Their Emotions
Help your child become aware of his emotions. Point out unruly behavior and ask why is he behaving in this obnoxious manner. Does he want something? Is he hurting or angry? When a child is forced to identify his emotion he becomes aware of his state of mind. This immediately puts his logical left brain in control and helps him back on track. Don’t engage if you yourself are feeling stressed out. Just take time out – both parent and child. A little space to breathe, think and evaluate goes a long way to avoiding meltdowns and relationship ruptures
8) Differences In Society/Humans
Intolerance is one of the main reasons for most of society’s ills. Disrespect and violence towards each other occur when we grow up like ‘frogs in a well’ thinking that only we are right, only our religion/race/culture is the best. This is the worst kind of mindset to have. Exposing your child to differences does not mean they have to abandon their roots. But it teaches them to be kind, tolerant and open-minded about different cultures and religions. Being exposed to diversity since a young age makes it a normal part of their existence., They learn to avoid stereotyping and treat everyone with dignity and respect. They develop open mind and acceptance which helps them work as a group without feeling restrained by their colleagues’ antecedents.
9) Suffering, Inequities & Gratitude
Protecting your child from the realities of this existence does not help him understand the world. Your child will not forever live in that safe cocoon you have built for him. He needs to know that there are kids who lack even the basics and that what he has is got through a combination of many factors luck, hard work, and grace. And there is nothing to be proud of or that he is better than those who lack what he has. Money does not make human life more valuable. But neither does lack of it define his own value. And every day he must be grateful and try and help in whatever small way those who are suffering.
10) Micro Moments of Fun & Wonder & Adventure
Life is not made up of just a few big life-changing events. It is made up of those micro-moments of fun, joy, wonder, and adventure. It is about enjoying an impromptu picnic or just having a mad pillow fight, it about cooking your child’s favorite dish or just playing with him his favorite video game. All these moments add to his memories, his magic-box he opens when he is bogged down with life’s vicissitudes. I remember when I was really struggling with depression, I’d mentally switch to the fun times I spent with my mother and the memories were enough to strengthen me to carry on. Good memories are our resilence switch, they give us the courage to push on.
11) Faith, Hope & Trust in a Higher Being
Sometimes life can seem hopeless but one must carry on despite things seem intolerable. At times like these having faith and trust in a higher being/God helps allay one’s despair. You don’t need to make God a kind of punishment many kids have to endure through meaningless prayers and rituals. Jus A daily reminder that there is an omnipotent being looking out for us. We do our work and pray for the best. My faith was the most important resilience factor that helped me carry on through my abusive childhood.
Building Resilience in Children
Resilience is really about knowing how to manage and adapt to life’s many challenges. By exposing your child to a variety of experiences you harness his skills and prepare him to face difficult times. Resilience becomes an internal trait – an ‘inbuilt hardiness’, that is a mix of commitment, control, and challenge.
Loving, supportive parents are the cornerstone of a child’s resilience. The knowledge that someone out there has my back is how one gets the courage to push on. As they grow and become more and more self-confident and capable, less and less they will actually need your presence. Just that deep down feeling that ‘mom’, ‘dad’ is there is the best legacy we leave for our kids. But that happens only if you have actually been there when they were growing up. So, be there and expose them to a variety of experiences. Resilience grows gradually and with the right inputs.
Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings by Dr. Ken Ginsburg