As my children get older I’m so aware of them taking more and more steps away from me, and out into the world on their own.
It’s wonderful and scary and bittersweet.
I hope that I’m doing enough to give them the skills they need to cope out there. One of the big things that’s on my mind lately is resilience. It’s such a key skill to be able to cope with all the knocks and troubles that life can throw at you.
So I’ve done a bit of research and found these 5 things that we can work on to help our children become more resilient.
1. Encourage a sense of humour
Laughing can be a great way to relieve stress, and actually has a lot of the same benefits as exercise. As well as reducing stress it boosts our overall sense of well-being.
A study carried out in 2011 found that people in a ‘humour’ group showed a significant increase in self-efficacy, optimism and perceptions of control, compared to those in the ‘social’ group and the control group.
So having a good sense of humour can help us feel more in control of things, as well as being more optimistic about everything.
Make a point of joking with your children, tell them silly stories, laugh at their made-up jokes to encourage them to keep telling them. You can also lead by example and find the humour in potentially stressful situations.
Laugh with them about how ridiculously long the queues are at the supermarket (and the fact you always pick the ‘wrong’ one!). Tell them knock knock jokes when you’re stuck in traffic, rather than being stressed about being late.
Being able to take a step back and find humour in a situation is a great tool for children to learn to use, and will be a big help in boosting their resilience.
2. Let them explore and express their feelings
Emotional awareness is a big part of resilience.
If you’re feeling sad or stressed or disappointed, it’s really important to be able to understand what those emotions are, and why you’re feeling them.
So make time to talk to your child about their day, and how they felt about different parts of it.
Name emotions for them, and discuss times that you’ve felt the same way.
As they get older you can encourage them to write in a diary or journal regularly to express their feelings, to get them out on paper and to work through them.
3. Get them moving
There are so many benefits to regular exercise, from improved sleep to lower stress levels. But exercise also makes us more resilient.
Studies have shown that exercising regularly boost stress resistance and our ability to cope with stress. It’s mainly thanks to the feel-good hormones that are released when we exercise, but there might be even more to it than that.
Regular exercise reduces our baseline levels of stress hormones, like cortisol. It also lowers our hormonal response to sudden psychological stress. So when something happens that would normally send our stress levels through the roof, we don’t react in the same way. Our bodies would normally release a load of hormones like norepinephrine when something suddenly startles us or makes us feel scared. This hormonal response has been found to be reduced though, in people who exercise regularly.
So encouraging our children to move around, to run, to practice yoga, to swim, will help them have a more controlled response to stressful situations and make them more emotionally resilient.
4. Help them develop an internal locus of control
We all naturally tend to have either an internal or external locus of control. Meaning we either believe that we are in control of our lives and what happens to us, or we believe that most things are out of our hands.
What’s good to know though is that you’re not stuck being one way or the other.
If your child seems to naturally feel that things are out of their control then you can help them develop an internal locus of control. This way they’ll learn to believe that they are in control of their lives.
People with an internal locus of control tend to be happier, and feel more free and less stressed. They know that they have control over how they react, even if certain circumstances are out of their control.
5. Encourage the right attitude
The way we think about life, the world and everything really, is incredibly powerful.
Working with your child to develop an optimistic view of life is a great way to help them cope better with whatever life throws at them. An optimistic world view will help them see difficulties as challenges, rather than problems. They’ll face them with ideas and actions, rather than feeling defeated and helpless about them.
Talking with your child about how strong they are, how capable they are, and generally encouraging a growth mindset will really help them become more resilient and better able to face anything.
There’s a quote that I read ages ago that really stuck with me, about how the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.
When it comes to resilience I think one of the best things we can do is talk to our children.
Remind them often how strong they are. Discuss problems together and encourage them to come up with solutions and actions they can take to make things better. Talk about your feelings and let them know it’s safe for them to talk with you about theirs.
Do you worry about your child being resilient enough to cope as they get older?
What do you think would have the biggest impact on boosting their resilience?