How can we help children become more resilient?

The importance of developing a growth mindset

How can we help children become more resilient?

During the current pandemic we have all faced adversity in one form or another and having the resilience to weather times like this is key to maintaining a fulfilling and rewarding life.

Paradoxically resilience tends to develop and strengthen in the face of adversity. Facing up to the challenges of multiple lockdowns and the disappointments these have inevitably brought actually provide the building bricks for developing greater resilience. However, in order to utilise this opportunity, children need constant support and encouragement from the adults around them. Helping them navigate their way, providing emotional guidance and encouraging perseverance leads children to a better understanding that things will get better and disappointment and sadness don’t last for ever.

In encouraging and developing resilience it is important to allow children to engage in some minor risk taking and decision making even if there is the chance of some bumps and bruises along the way. They are then able to learn how to fail and try again, set and test boundaries and take control for themselves.

Using the “Power of Yet” is also a powerful tool in encouraging children to try new things. It teaches grit and helps develop a growth-based mindset. When they say, “I can’t do this,” then you need to add “yet, I can’t do this, yet.”

Helping children to see themselves as “orchestrators of their own fates” helps them to become independent and autonomous in seeking out new experiences. They understand that while you can’t always control what happens to you, you can always control how you choose to respond to it.

When children are experiencing anxiety, our natural impulse is to protect them. It is tempting to say, “I know it is really scary, and you don’t need to do it if you don’t want to.” However, this actually makes their anxiety worse. It reinforces that this thing must be really scary if an adult think they can’t handle. Instead validate the fear and then help the child build baby steps towards tackling their monsters. It is Ok to feel the fear but do it anyway!

On a final note the Pixar movie Inside Out is worth watching with children. It illustrates to them the importance for their wellbeing of acknowledging and embracing sadness and other challenging emotions and contributes to developing an understanding that happiness can’t be forced and we won’t always be happy all of the time. Perhaps something we all need to remember.

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