🌼 Importance of building resilience in children and teens

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The dictionary definition of resilience is “the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness.”

It refers to the capacity to bounce back or adapt to challenging situations, setbacks, or adversity. Resilience is a valuable trait that enables individuals to cope with stress, overcome obstacles, and emerge stronger from difficult circumstances. In psychology, resilience is defined as a dynamic process that involves positive adaptation to stress or adversity.

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To give an example — Imagine a child who is struggling with learning difficulties in school. They may feel frustrated and discouraged, and their self-esteem may suffer. However, with the help of their parents, teachers, and support system, they learn to persevere and work hard to overcome their challenges. Through persistence and determination, the child begins to see progress and gains confidence in their abilities. They may still face setbacks along the way, but they continue to show resilience by bouncing back from setbacks and never giving up on their goals. Eventually, the child develops a strong sense of resilience and becomes more confident and capable of handling difficult situations.

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As parents, caregivers, teachers or mental health professionals, we have a unique opportunity to help children build resilience which is an essential life skill that can help children thrive and grow, even in the face of adversity.

Here are some useful & practical ways which we can use to help children develop resilience:

1. Encourage Positive Thinking and Self-Talk

Positive thinking and self-talk are powerful tools for building resilience in children. Encourage children to think positively about themselves and their abilities, and to talk to themselves in a positive way. Here are a few ways you can encourage positive thinking and self-talk in children:

  • Help children identify their strengths and accomplishments. Encourage them to focus on these positive aspects of themselves when they are facing challenges.
  • Teach children to reframe negative thoughts.

For example, if a child says, “I’m no good at math,” help them reframe that thought by saying, “Math is challenging for me, but I’m working on improving.”

  • Encourage children to use positive affirmations. Have them write down positive statements about themselves and repeat them to themselves when they are feeling down.

2. Foster a Sense of Belonging

A child with a sense of belonging would be able to bounce back better and faster than a child who does not because they would feel supported, valued and loved by their family and friends.

For example, if a child fails a test at school, they might feel disappointed and discouraged. But if they have a sense of belonging, they would know that their parents and teachers still care about them and want them to succeed. They would also have friends who would encourage them and help them study for the next test. They would be able to overcome their setback and try again with more confidence and motivation.

On the other hand, a child who does not have a sense of belonging might feel isolated, ashamed and hopeless. They might think that no one cares about them or their performance. They might give up on learning and lose interest in school. They would have a harder time recovering from their failure and moving forward.

Here are some ways you can help children foster a sense of belonging:

  • Encourage children to participate in activities that interest them. This could be sports, music, art, or any other activity they enjoy.
  • Help children make connections with peers who share their interests. This could be through after-school clubs or sports teams, or by setting up playdates with other children.
  • Create a safe and supportive environment for children to share their thoughts and feelings. Let children know that it’s okay to ask for help when they need it.

3. Teach Coping Skills

Children should have coping skills to be resilient. Coping skills are the ways we deal with stress, challenges and difficult emotions. They help us bounce back from setbacks and grow from our experiences.

For example, if a child is feeling sad because they lost a game, they can use coping skills such as talking to a friend, doing something fun or positive self-talk to feel better. These coping skills can help them overcome their sadness and learn from their mistakes.

Here are some coping skills you can teach children as parents, teachers & mental health counsellors:

  • Deep breathing – Teach children to take deep breaths when they are feeling stressed or anxious. Breathing deeply can help calm the body and mind.
  • Mindfulness – Teach children to be present in the moment and focus on their senses. This can help them manage difficult emotions and stay calm.
  • Positive self-talk – Teach children to use positive self-talk to help them feel more confident and capable.
  • Problem-solving – Teach children to identify the problem, brainstorm solutions, and choose the best course of action.

4. Teach Self-Care

Self care is an important skill that children should learn to be resilient. Self care means taking care of your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

For example, if a child is feeling stressed about a competition or a debate comin up, they can practice self care by getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, doing some exercise and talking to someone they trust. This way, they can cope with the challenge and bounce back from it. Self care can help children feel happier, healthier and more confident in themselves.

Here are some healthy habits you can encourage:

  • Regular exercise – Encourage children to get regular exercise, whether it’s through sports, dance, or just playing outside.
  • Healthy eating – Teach children about healthy eating habits and encourage them to make healthy food choices.
  • Good sleep habits – Help children establish a consistent sleep routine and encourage them to get enough sleep each night.
  • Mindfulness practices – Encourage children to practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques to reduce stress.

Read also: 17 life lessons to learn as early as you can

5. Encourage the Child to Help Others

Helping others goes a long way in building resilience in children — I’m a big believer of this theory.

When children engage in pro-social behaviors, such as helping, sharing, and cooperating with others, they develop empathy, compassion, and a sense of social responsibility. These qualities enhance their self-esteem, self-efficacy, and sense of purpose, which can contribute to their overall resilience.

Additionally, engaging in pro-social behaviors can provide children with opportunities to practice important skills, such as communication, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, which also contribute to their resilience.

6. Encourage Growth Mindset

A growth mindset is the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed through hard work and dedication.

For example, if a child wants to learn how to play the piano, they should not give up when they face difficulties or make mistakes. Instead, they should see these challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. They should also seek feedback and guidance from others who can help them improve. By having a growth mindset care, children can overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.

Here are some ways you can encourage a growth mindset:

  • Praise effort, not just achievement – When a child works hard on something, praise their effort and persistence, even if they don’t achieve the desired result.
  • Encourage children to view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow – Help them understand that making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process.

6. Promote Emotional Intelligence & Empathy

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions, as well as understand and empathize with the emotions of others.

When talking about how this is related to resilience, a child with emotional intelligence and empathy will be more resilient than a child without them because they can understand and manage their own feelings, as well as relate to others’ emotions.

For example, if a child with emotional intelligence and empathy gets into a conflict with a friend, they will be able to calm themselves down, apologize for their mistakes, and empathize with their friend’s perspective. They will also be able to forgive their friend and move on from the situation.

On the other hand, a child without emotional intelligence and empathy might get angry, blame their friend, and hold a grudge. They will have a harder time resolving the conflict and maintaining the friendship.

Therefore, a child with emotional intelligence and empathy will be more resilient because they can cope with challenges and bounce back from difficulties.

Here are some ways you can promote emotional intelligence:

  • Teach children to identify their own emotions and understand the reasons behind them.
  • Help children understand the emotions of others by encouraging empathy and perspective-taking.
  • Teach children healthy ways to express their emotions, such as through art, writing, or talking to a trusted adult.
  • Encourage children to problem-solve and find solutions when they encounter difficult emotions.

7. Help Children Build Positive Relationships

Positive relationships are a crucial part of building resilience in children. Here are some ways you can help children build positive relationships:

Encourage children to spend time with family and friends who support and uplift them.

Teach children how to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts in healthy ways.

Model positive relationship behaviors, such as kindness, empathy, and active listening.

Help children understand the importance of boundaries and self-care in maintaining healthy relationships.

8. Having Small & Big Goals

Having a sense of purpose can give children a sense of meaning and direction, which can help them build resilience.

For example, imagine there is a child who wants to learn how to play the piano. A big goal for him or her would be to perform a recital in front of an audience. A small goal for them would be to practice a song every day for 10 minutes.

If the child faces a challenge or a setback, such as forgetting a note or feeling nervous, they can use their small goal as a motivation to keep trying and improve their skills. They can also use their big goal as a vision to inspire them and remind them of their potential.

By having both small and big goals, the child can develop a positive mindset and a growth attitude that will help them overcome any obstacle and achieve their dreams.

Here are some ways you can help children develop a sense of purpose:

  • Encourage children to set goals and work towards them. This can be a short-term goal, such as learning a new skill, or a long-term goal, such as pursuing a career.
  • Help children identify their values and interests, and encourage them to pursue activities and hobbies that align with those values and interests.
  • Model a sense of purpose by discussing your own goals and values with children.
  • Encourage children to give back to their communities through volunteering or other acts of service. 

Read also: 9 lessons in life people learn too late

In conclusion, a child who develops resilience has a brighter future ahead. Resilience enables children to not only cope with challenges but also to thrive in the face of adversity. They become better problem-solvers, more adaptable, and more resourceful individuals. Resilience fosters a sense of hopefulness and optimism that carries into adulthood. With resilience, children can develop a growth mindset, learn from mistakes, and use setbacks as opportunities for growth. 

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Ultimately, resilience is a valuable skill that can help children lead happier, healthier, and more successful lives. 

Contributed By Chandni Lepcha Panjwani

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