Our personal narrative – the story we tell about our lives – has a lot of power to improve our resilience. Everyone faces challenges along life’s path. To build resilience, we need to recognize the meaning these different events hold for our child and help them shift to a more resilient story.
Here are a few narratives of difficult times that can help foster resilience and the ability to feel stronger on the other side of the experience:
Strengthening of spiritual life
Calling on and building our strengths to get through difficulties
An important fork in the road leading to a better path
An improved relationship
A new appreciation for life
A new door opened And many more….
Consider these and others when working through difficult times with your child. Remember, resilience isn’t “not feeling the sad, mad, frustrated, hurt feelings.” These feelings are important and should be felt. Resilience is about believing that sunny days are waiting on the other side of the rain.
Getting outdoors does so much to improve our wellbeing! When kids get outdoors, they have an environment in which they can naturally take calculated risks.
Risky play means that our child encounters something they feel a little bit afraid of, but the challenge is within their capacity to overcome. Taking on and overcoming this challenge allows them to experience the related feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment.
This week, teach thoughtful problem solving to your child to boost their resilience skills.
Good problem solving skills build our resilience and boost our confidence in getting through difficulties.
Start by having your child come up with a list of at least five (5) or six (6) possible responses to the problem.
Help them select their two options and create a pros and cons list for those two (2) options.
Select the best option and have your child give it a try.
Evaluate how the response went and, if needed, select another option to try.
This approach will help your child with many of the umbrella skills – improving their ability to think flexibly, come up with multiple solutions to a problem, act for themselves, re-evaluate their efforts and ultimately bounce back better from challenging times.
Consider the way you talk about yourself to your child…
Children are sponges and will pick up their primary parent’s way of thinking about the world. What does that mean? It means that if you are are an optimist, your kids will be, too. If you tend to put a negative frame on your life events, your children will also learn to interpret the world this way.
Why does this matter? An optimistic frame has been shown to better support resilience and your child’s hope for their future, helping them bounce back from tough times.
Think about these two key principles to adopt an optimistic explanatory style and boost your child’s resilience.
1. Temporary vs. Permanent
When bad events feel permanent, it can hinder your child from believing they can change their circumstances. In contrast, when difficult events happen, as they will in every life, show your child that most of these are temporary and can be overcome with time.
Start by avoiding “always” and “never” in your explanations. “This kind of thing always happens to me” feels pretty permanent. The more temporary your child sees challenging times to be, the more they will be optimistic for the future.
2. Specific vs. General
It’s easy to see patterns in life and group them all together, but this style of explanation can leave us feeling pessimistic about our chances to make change. Try to be specific about the issues you face.
For example, after a lazy day with nothing crossed off the to-do list, try saying “I was feeling lazy today” instead of “I am lazy”. The latter is more specific to the situation at hand and leaves room for tomorrow to be different while the former seems unchangeable.