Written by Mr Peter Burton, Principal
Over the past two years I have had many conversations with parents and staff on the comparative resilience of children. Many children are able to rebound from a set-back, pick themselves up, dust themselves down and get back into things – it is one of the wonderful parts of being a teacher, watching how children rebound and learn from their experience.
However, there are some children who don’t have the tools to bounce back as easily as others. For children who may be struggling when faced with adversity, it’s important to discuss cultivating an acceptance of failure, and an acceptance from parents that we can’t always shield our children from disappointment or tough times.
So, what is resilience? According to beyondblue.org.au, resilience “helps you cope with life’s ups and downs. With the right strategies, you can bounce back when things go wrong.”
All of us have experienced a great deal of transition, change and uncertainty within our families, workplaces, and communities over the past few years. Your children have also experienced varying levels of the same turbulence depending on their level of maturity and life skills. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in the book The Coddling of the American Mind speak about the importance of not avoiding failures, insults or painful experiences as it is only through adversity and being challenged, that children are able to mature and learn resilience.
Learning how to build resilience, and how to parent children with resilience building in mind, is a lifelong journey. Here are seven ways you can help build resilience in your child:
- Provide your child with the tools they need to cope with setbacks
Provide your child with a skill set that optimises resilience such as slowing down their responses and helping them to reflect objectively on their situation. M. Seligman in “The Optimistic Child” provides a comprehensive set of skills to help you teach your child healthy ways to think through issues. You can find a copy of this book in the College library.
- Accept failure and disappointment as a necessary part of life
Avoid the statement “you can be anything you want to be” – not all of us are born with the athletic ability to be an Olympian. However, all of us can learn to accept setbacks are a part of life. This is part of learning who we are; people uniquely created in God’s image.
- Encourage your child to verbalise their feelings
To help your child rebound after setbacks or failures, ask them to put into words why they feel that way, and then help them to frame a healthy response. Your child needs to learn to name their feelings in order to tame their feelings.
- Encourage healthy discussions
When tough times come ask you child questions like; “what is the worst/best that can happen?”, “what do you think is most likely to happen?”, “what can you/we do to respond?” These types of discussions teach your child how to think and respond to situations.
Pray – not just with your child, but also alone, and with your partner, and at church. God seeks to comfort and restore us in the midst of our journey. By humbly bringing our highs and our lows to God we can learn to accept the lessons we are learning while we lean into Him.
- Remember children mirror how their parents react to situations
Children watch how you cope with life’s stressors/challenges, so be aware of the narrative your child is hearing from you. By being mindful of how you voice your processes on the issues you face, you will build resilience in your own child.
Psychologist Sabina Read stated “Parents are flawed and human so if Mum says, ‘I’m just hopeless because I can’t resist chocolate cake’, the child learns without even being told that you’re weak if you can’t manage food in a healthy way, then that inner critic comes back to you every time.”
- Seek support
As a parent, you may not have all the answers, and this is okay. There are many online resources on how to teach resilience in children you can access for additional support. You can also reach out to a school counsellor if your child is struggling to accept their failures.
Kingsway Christian College incorporates a number of workshops and programs on this topic, providing parents with the strategies and tools required to support their children through everyday challenges. These include the YourChoisez programme, as well as the No Scaredy Cats parenting programme run by our Dean of Christian Formation (Mr Graham Irvine) and our Associate Dean of Primary (Mrs Gai Irvine). To learn more about these workshops, please contact Mr Irvine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your child is feeling particularly anxious about their setbacks, read our blog on five simple checks for your child’s wellbeing.