Resilience is a learned skill. Like other skills, resilience takes time and attention to develop. Resilient children are better able to “bounce back” from difficult experiences and cope with the challenges and stresses of daily life. Parents and caregivers play a key role in the development of resilience in children. Things like health and well-being, temperament, parenting styles and home environment all play a role in the development of resilience. Resilient people are less likely to experience depression and anxiety and are more likely to have healthy relationships.
10 Ways to Help Children and Youth Build Resilience
- Tell and show your child they are loved for being exactly who they are. Eye contact and being present in the moment are important. Prioritize spending time together doing activities you both enjoy. The relationship you have with your child when they are young sets the stage for your relationship with them as they get older. During the teen years it can be more challenging to maintain the parent-child relationship. Try to grab as many of the small opportunities to spend time together as you can.
- Take time to play, read, sing and talk every day. For older children and teens, take an interest in their hobbies or spend time together doing activities you both enjoy. Ask about their day and really listen to them. Ask for their opinion.
- Try to limit distractions when your child talks to you. If you are distracted, tell them so and ask that they give you time to finish what you are doing so that you can offer your full attention. When you finish what you are doing, reconnect with your child or teen to discuss what they wanted to talk about.
- Accept their emotions – everyone has their ups and downs. Talk to your child about emotions, how to recognize them, and how their body feels when they experience that emotion. Specifically describe how your face or body may change when you feel happy, angry, scared, excited, or frustrated. This is important for teenagers too, but it’s not always as easy to talk with them about thoughts and feelings. Parents can still pay attention to how they are doing and, when their teen is ready to talk, be ready to listen and help them with their emotions.
- Discuss how talking to family and/or friends you trust can help you feel better. Show your child how taking three deep breaths can help them to calm down. Children between 4 and 9 years may enjoy Mindmasters 2. Older children and teens can learn about self-care and find what works for them to cope with stress.
- Talk about how to break down a problem into small steps. Handle one step at a time. What is the problem? Come up with solutions together. What are some pros and cons of different solutions? Discuss if the solution worked and what to do differently next time. Help your child or teen see that most problems are temporary. Remember that giving young teens space to handle things on their own is important, but when it comes to serious problems they still need parents to step in and support them.
- Stay calm or S.T.O.P. Take three deep breaths. Children copy what adults say and do. Use positive self-talk out loud (e.g. “I am strong”, “I can do this,” “It’s going to be ok”). Stop and ask yourself: Is there a more constructive or positive way I could respond to this situation? Take time for your own self-care. When children see their parents cope well with everyday stress, they learn to do the same. Teens are also still watching what you do and are influenced by your behaviours. Lead by example!
- No matter their age, love your child unconditionally. Respect and believe in their ideas and abilities. Help them recognize their strengths and achieve their goals. Praise their efforts and accomplishments (example: hang art work where everyone can see it). Help them to learn new skills like reading, art, helping around the house, or learning new hobbies. Failure is a normal part of life and everyone experiences it. Exposure to failure is important for learning. The more children are exposed to failure, the less scary it becomes. It is important for parents to model embracing failure in a positive way.
- Give them the words they need to communicate positively and effectively with others. For teenagers, connecting with others shifts to spending less time with parents and family and more time with friends. Positive peer relationships are an important protective factor for the well-being of teens.
- Provide a routine for your child that ensures they are getting enough sleep; provides time for physical activity and play; and limits sedentary behaviours like watching T.V., playing videos games or playing on a smart phone or tablet. Offer a variety of nutritious food options for healthy eating. Providing this healthy home base is important for youth as well. Help your teen to discover what helps them to feel good and recharge.
Adapted with permission from Middlesex London Public Health