This blog was written by our own Gurman Randhawa, a Register Psychotherapist with The Giving Tree Centre, for one of the biggest daycares across Canada, Kids & Company!
What is Resilience?
Human resilience is dynamic and generated by interactions between multiple systems.
It is the ability to successfully adapt to challenges that jeopardize an individual’s function, survival, or future development. A child’s ability to cope with challenges depends on their external environment including their relationships and tools/resources that they have access to.
As adults, when unexpected changes happen, we can feel extremely overwhelmed and have difficulty managing our emotions. We might wonder how to move forward despite the unwanted circumstances. In such situations, we can find immense support from family and/or friends or rely on healthy coping skills that have developed overtime. So, how can we instill resilience in children while considering their developmental stage and abilities? If you have similar questions, follow along as we explore these thoughts.
Listen to Your Child
Start by listening to your child’s concerns, fears, and/or anxieties. Before tackling any issues, we need to recognize and understand what it is that your child is feeling. Children may struggle to identify or label their emotions. It helps children to have an adult explore their emotions with them and where they physically feel those emotions in their body. Children may experience physiological symptoms as well such as an unsettling feeling in their stomach without fully understanding where it is coming from. Talking to a trusted adult can aid them in recognizing and understanding their emotions better.
Explore Social Supports Systems
Research shows that having social support is linked with resilience. Reassuring children about their connections can aid them in being aware of who they can reach out to during times of distress. It can also help them recognize who their ‘fans’ and supporters are. Statements such as, “I told your dad how well you’re doing in school, and he says he is very proud of you” can help build confidence in themselves and reassure them that dad is not only their biggest fan but also someone that they can reach out to.
Model Healthy Behaviours
One of the many ways children learn is through watching adults model behaviours, including coping behaviours. Research shows how important finding meaning and hope is for individuals facing distress. As a result, modeling such behaviours can aid in instilling resilience in children.
Teach Your Child Self-Care and Healthy Coping Tools
To develop your child’s executive functioning, explore self-care with them and create a self-care plan. The self-care plan can include enjoyable activities such as playing with toys or reading a book. In addition, exploring coping tools such as fidget toys, drawing, or reading can aid children in building their coping toolbox. Learning how to take care of oneself can aid children when they are feeling distressed.
Foster Problem-Solving Skills
When we see our child in distress, we may want to rush to their rescue or solve their problems for them. However, working together with your child can help build healthy resilience. Guide your child through problem-solving procedures including identifying the problem, exploring possible actions, and identifying the best course of action. You can use play and art activities to make these exercises engaging and educational.
While we cannot control the adversities that our children may face, we can try our best to aid them in developing a holistic toolbox to build resilience.