– Special to Riverview Register
While adulthood is filled with serious responsibilities, childhood isn’t exactly stress-free.
Kids take tests, learn new information, change schools, change neighborhoods, get sick, get braces, encounter bullies, make new friends and occasionally get hurt by those friends.
What helps kids in navigating these kinds of challenges is resilience. Resilient kids are problem solvers. They face unfamiliar or tough situations and strive to find good solutions.
But resilience isn’t birthright. It can be taught. Parents are encouraged to equip their kids with the skills to handle the unexpected, which actually contrasts our cultural approach.
Anxious people have an especially hard time helping their kids tolerate uncertainty, simply because they have a hard time tolerating it themselves.
However, a parent’s job isn’t to be there all the time for their kids. It’s to teach them to handle uncertainty and to problem-solve.
Here are some valuable suggestions for raising resilient kids.
Avoid eliminating all risk.
Naturally, parents want to keep their kids safe. But eliminating all risk robs kids of learning resiliency.
The key is to allow appropriate risks and teach your kids essential skills. Giving kids age-appropriate freedom helps them learn their own limits.
Teach them to problem-solve.
Let’s say your child wants to go to sleep-away camp, but they’re nervous about being away from home. An anxious parent might say, “Well, then there’s no reason for you to go.”
But a better approach is to normalize your child’s nervousness and help them figure out how to navigate being homesick. So you might ask your child how they can practice getting used to being away from home.
Teach your kids concrete skills.
Focus on the specific skills children will need to learn in order to handle certain situations. For instance, teach a shy child how to greet someone and start a conversation.
Don’t provide all the answers.
Rather than providing your kids with every answer, start using the phrase “I don’t know,” followed by promoting problem-solving. Also, starting with small situations when they’re young helps prepare kids to handle bigger trials.
They won’t like it, but they’ll get used to it.
Avoid talking in catastrophic terms.
Pay attention to what you say to your kids and around them. Anxious parents, in particular, tend to “talk very catastrophically around their children.
For instance, instead of saying “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim,” they say, “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim because it’d be devastating to me if you drowned.”
Let your kids make mistakes.
Failure is not the end of the world. Letting kids mess up is tough and painful for parents. But it helps kids learn how to fix slip-ups and make better decisions next time.
Of course, kids also learn from observing their parents’ behavior. Try to be calm and consistent. You cannot say to a child you want them to control their emotions, while you yourself are flipping out.
Parenting takes a lot of practice and we all screw up. When you do make a mistake, admit it. Learn to say,I’m sorry I handled that poorly. Let’s talk about a different way to handle that in the future..