How to Raise Resilient Children
At my daughter’s local primary school in Tunbridge Wells, the Principal Head asked me to come for an hour one to one life coaching meeting with him to discuss how to build resilience in children. He had noticed over the last few year’s that the resilience in the children had deteriorated. He was concerned that many parents were putting their children under immense pressure to pass the 11 plus as we were in the grammar system area. Self harming was on the increase to 1 in 60 pupils at the school at about the age of ten, which is when the 11 plus is taken.
I was also invited to a parent forum to discuss resilience with the aim of possible content for a school booklet on the subject to help parents raise resilient children. The booklet is still an on going process. Listening to the parents complain to the Principal Head about why their child didn’t make the football team or the gymnastics team made me see how the backgrounds and negative beliefs of the parents is projected onto their children.
For example, if your son wasn’t selected for the football team and you realised that all of the selected boys birthdays were pre-christmas and your son is a post-christmas birthdate, it may well be that the six months difference in strength, speed and skill is big. But if you then tell your son this, will this empower him or give him the sense of ‘hopelessness’ and feel that it’s not worth trying? When perhaps, simply asking your son ‘So what are you going to do about it?’ allows him to take responsibility and teaches him to look for a solution for himself, rather than arguing with the school as a strategy to get your way, a model that your son would then learn from you, who then possibly becomes one of the unpleasant members in society who screams in playgrounds/parks/streets or later in the workplace as a means of getting what they want.
This got me thinking for a blog article.
One of the most difficult things a parent, guardian or teacher has to endure is watching the children they love struggle with change, adversity and loss. We can’t protect them from the realities of life, we realise in these helpless moments. But what we can do is raise our children to be resilient in such realities.
What Makes a Child Resilient
In the extensive “A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children” by Edith H. Grotberg, Ph.D. of The International Resilience Project, children draw on 3 “sources of resilience”:
- What and whom they HAVE around them for structure, safety and support. This includes trustworthy relationships, structure in their home, positive role models, encouragement toward autonomy, and access to the necessities of their health, education, security and welfare.
- Who they ARE as a person that makes them safe and secure in their world. This includes feeling loved and lovable, developing compassion and empathy, pride in oneself, self-responsibility, and a positive attitude.
- What they CAN do to affect their own safety and security. This includes skills in communication, problem solving, impulse control, dealing responsibly with emotions, measuring the emotional “temperature” of themselves and others, and seeking help from the right people at the right times.
Another way Dr. Grotberg describes these qualities is as: Love, Inner Strength, and Interpersonal Skills.
In order for a child to be as resilient as possible to all circumstances, all three of these sources of resilience — love, inner strength, and interpersonal skills — must be developed to their fullest. Children must have a support system on hand to go through their toughest (and brightest) experiences with them. Children must develop the qualities of being and self-awareness required for resilience (e.g. respect for others, self-responsibility, positive attitude, willingness to help). And children must be able and empowered to interact effectively with the world in which they live (e.g. talking about their problems, controlling their negative impulses, seeking help when needed).
The American Psychological Association lists “10 Tips for building resilience in children and teens” on their website filled with great common-sense advice that we often overlook, or forget how much it matters.
- creating a daily routine and sticking to it
- promoting good hygiene and self-care
- speaking openly and honestly about the inevitability of change
- helping your child to build strong relationships and help other people
’til we meet again,
Walk in Beauty;
Walk in Peace.
‘Causing the Miraculous by Spreading Beauty, Truth & Harmony‘
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