Resilience is the ability to bounce back in adversity and willingness to face challenges. It is the key to professional and personal success in life. It is also about trusting that you can and not being too impatient to get there.
For little ones, big challenges can be experienced in what may appear to adults as small things, especially when the child is unprepared, taken by surprise, and therefore given little chance to control the situation. Examples include:
- Saying goodbye to mum/dad or a good friend
- Waiting their turn with a game or toy
- Dealing with disappointment when they aren’t allowed to do something
- Having to choose something else when their favorite T-shirt is in the laundry
- Needing attention when both parents are busy
- Dealing with sadness when a toy is broken or lost
- Accepting not being able to do something straight away and needing practice
These are all great opportunities to develop resilience. Once you’ve identified the challenge from the child’s perspective, the first thing to do is counter-intuitive but extremely important, and that is for you to welcome the problem as an exciting challenge and/or an opportunity for play.
When possible, help prepare your child to the challenge by talking reassuringly and in detail about what will happen (e.g. when we get to school, we will have a hug and say goodbye. I will pick you up after snack time…).
When things happen, always start by acknowledging the feeling your child is expressing: sadness/ disappointment, anger/impatience, or fear. However, do this briefly and don’t dwell on it. Instead, help them move on and notice other things.
You may offer a hug, hand over their favorite cuddly toy, or use a calming anchor you have already installed with your child, like them taking a deep breath with their hand on their tummy to feel it expand like a balloon.
Invite them to use their other senses by asking them what they can see, hear, or smell. Even if your child is not ready to respond, this will introduce mindfulness so that they can tackle the perceived problem differently.
If your child is frustrated, help them break the challenge down into manageable size goals. For example, suggest that they put down the corner pieces to the puzzle first, then the sides, etc.
If your child seems to give up too fast, encourage them to measure their progress so that they can surpass themselves each time. You may use a counting technique and say something like “let’s do it to 5” and the following time to 7, to 10, etc.
Using these techniques should help your child feel able, proud, and motivated, and thereby develop resilience.