The gift of resilience at Christmas



13th December 2019


Sue Penna

Resilience is the ability to return to being healthy and hopeful after bad things happen. Sometimes resilience is about survival; the more dangers and difficulties we face, the more we need to bounce back each time.

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 things that go wrong,

We can all develop our resilience, and we can help our children develop it as well. The following are tips on how to do so.

Make connections

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 and meal times 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 what’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. ‘I don’t know how we can pay the rent – we will be homeless?’

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 also ‘down time’ 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 it’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 haven’t. Children who are criticized can internalise 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. It’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 take a look at how these challenges 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 ‘I won’t make any friends’ rather than just saying ‘you will’, 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 don’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 want to do – even if you don’t want to
  • Sit with them and let them talk to you – even if it seems unimportant
  • 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
  • Keep track of their daily routines – and help them make routines
  • Cook meals for them that they like
  • Praise them just for being them

Resilience isn’t just for Christmas – it’s for life

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