What is Resilience and Why is it Important?
Psychologists often define resilience as the ability to recover, both mentally and emotionally, from difficulties and adversities. If someone is resilient it means they have a certain mental grit and toughness.
Resilience is an important characteristic to help our kids develop when they are young. Then as they grow into teenagers and adults they are more capable of managing disappointments and setbacks.
A good method for helping kids build resilience, is to teach them to reframe their obstacles as opportunities instead.
You can remind them, “This is a perfect opportunity for you to find a creative answer”, or “This is an opportunity to find out how dedicated you are to this goal.”
When something difficult happens to your child, instead of making a suggestion or solving the problem for them you can ask, “What do you think would work?” or “How do you think you can make this better?”
Teaching kids how to see the “silver-lining” in disappointing situations also helps build resilience. When the family experiences something that’s not ideal, ask your kids, “What is something good that can come from this disappointment?”
Reframing obstacles as opportunities is a lifelong practice. It will need to be frequently reinforced during childhood, so it can become a lifelong mental habit.
Allow Them To Fail
It’s heartbreaking to watch our kids fail, but failure can be one of the best teachers. It allows kids to see how their actions or mistakes directly impact their outcome in life.
Having small failures allows kids to understand what it feels like when things don’t turn out the way that they’d hoped. By exposing them to small amounts of disappointment it helps build up their “disappointment threshold”.
I think of a disappointment threshold as the amount of disappointment a person can handle without falling into despair. Imagine what would happen if your parents had sheltered you from any type of moderate disappointment your entire childhood, and it wasn’t until adulthood that you experienced your first true disappointment.
Remind Them of Past Accomplishments
When your child is facing a difficult challenge, it can sometimes help to remind them of all the difficulties they’ve already overcome in their life. This can be an encouraging and empowering practice.
You can say things like, “Remember when you were scared to jump off the diving board last summer? But you finally did, and you had so much fun!” Or you can remind them, “Remember how hard it was to learn to tie your shoes? Well look at you now. You don’t even have to think about it anymore. After some practice, that’s how this will be.”
You may even want to help them keep a journal or small notebook of all their accomplishments and achievements. Then when they’re facing an especially difficult challenge, you can go through the journal together. Reminding them how brave, creative, and determined they were in overcoming past difficulties.
Mental resilience isn’t necessarily something we are born with, but luckily it’s a skill that can be taught and cultivated. Helping kids develop resilience gives them a better chance at finding success in life, despite all the inevitable setbacks and disappointments everyone encounters.
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