The best gift you can give your kids this Christmas is you!
Within child to parent relationships the most valuable gift we can give is a feeling of safety and trustworthiness. Sadly, for many of us as adults we feel increasingly unsafe in a world where COVID-19 still threatens us and there is increasingly a sense of job insecurity, housing insecurity and economic disruption. One of the things that helps us get through difficult times is our resilience â€“ this is our ability to return to being healthy and hopeful after bad things happen.
Resilient people are more likely to have positive self-esteem, feel loved or cared for, have relationships with others that validate and are genuine. We canâ€™t all have this all the time and when times are tough our resilience can be about survival; the more dangers and difficulties we face, the more we need to bounce back each time. In difficult times our resilience is at its most stretched and itâ€™s important to pick the challenges you can tackle if you can.
Finding a situation difficult to cope with doesnâ€™t mean you or your children are weak or lacking in something
Too much resilience, learnt from a lifetime of adversity can be unrealistic, unsustainable, and isolating
Resilient adults and children need relationships with others, and we know this is the most important factor in developing and sustaining positive resilience to adverse events. We canâ€™t just become resilient â€“ resilience is built in the concept of caring and supportive relationships.
Managing resilience is important. If we face too much adversity and have inadequate protection, we can grow up turning to coping strategies that, while helpful in the short term, are less so over time. However, if we face no adversity due to over protection, we can struggle to cope with the smallest thing that goes wrong
We can all develop our resilience, and we can help our children develop it as well. However, it can come and go and sometimes the most resilient thing we can do is have a PJ Day in front the TV!
The following are tips on how to support positive resilience development in children.
Encourage your child to be a friend and to have friends. Model this by trying to be consistent with your friendship groups and allow your child to hear you talk positively to your friends. If you have supportive family, develop that network, to help with the inevitable disappointments and hurts in life.
Maintain a daily routine
Sticking to a routine can be comforting to children, especially younger children who crave structure in their lives. Encourage your child to develop his or her own routines. regular bed, bath times and mealtimes are a great way to start.
Take a break and be mindful of age-appropriate conversations
Teach you and your child how to focus on something besides whatâ€™s worrying you and them. Be aware of what your child may overhear and remember that at different ages children can only cope with so much. Sentences and conversation that to you seem normal can terrify children. â€˜I donâ€™t know how we can pay the rent â€“ we will be homeless?â€™
Teach your child self-care
Make yourself a good example and teach your child the importance of making time to eat properly, exercise and rest. Make sure your child has time to have fun and â€˜down timeâ€™ to relax. Caring for oneself and having fun will help your child stay balanced and better able to deal with stressful times.
Move toward your goals
Teach your child to set reasonable goals and then to move towards them. Moving toward that goal – even if itâ€™s a tiny step – and receiving praise for doing so will focus your child on what he or she has accomplished rather than on what they havenâ€™t. Children who are criticized can internalize it and develop low self-esteem.
Nurture a positive self-view and how to manage emotions
Managing all emotions for us and our children is key to being resilient. Being happy or sad, elated, or angry are all normal human responses. Itâ€™s how you deal with them that is important. Help your child remember ways that he or she has successfully handled hardships in the past and then help them understand that these past challenges help build the strength to handle future challenges.
Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook
Even when your child is facing very painful events, help them look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective if they are old enough to do so. Help them see that there is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good. An optimistic and positive outlook enables your child to see the good things in life and keep going even in the hardest times.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery and problem solving
Tough times are often the times when children learn the most about themselves. Help your child look at how, whatever they are facing, can teach resilience skills such as patience, sharing, tolerance and managing those difficult emotions. This also means not always providing the answers. For instance, if a child asks a difficult question, e.g., starting a new school and saying, â€˜I wonâ€™t make any friendsâ€™ rather than just saying â€˜you willâ€™, acknowledge how difficult school might be and ask how they might instigate making new friends.
Allow them to make mistakes and take some risks
The pressure on all of us, and children especially, to be perfect and not make mistakes is huge today and in part fueled by social media and television. Acknowledging to your children that you get things wrong and letting them see that is a great way for the child to see that this is not catastrophic. Taking risks is difficult as we all want to protect our children, but this might just be something simple like joining a new sports club when they donâ€™t think they are very sporty.
Things you can do this Christmas to develop healthy resilience:
- Tell your child you love them – lots if possible
- Spend time doing what they what even if you donâ€™t want to â€“ watch those Christmas movies repeatedly
- Sit with them and let them talk to you â€“ even if itâ€™s nonsense
- Ask them how they are feeling and really listen to the answer
- Give them clear boundaries without shouting at them, e.g., sitting in one place while having their tea
- Allow them to be cross with you if you are wrong (i.e., late to pick them up)
- Tell them when they have done something good, however many times you had to ask for it to be done
- Keep track of their daily routines â€“ and help them make routines
- Cook meals for them that they like even if you donâ€™t
- Praise them just for being them
Resilience isnâ€™t just for Christmas, itâ€™s for life.