The homework task is too hard...meltdown!

The Vegemite sandwich is cut into triangles, not squares...meltdown!

The Lego village which has taken 5.7 hours to build is mistaken by the family pet as a new chew toy...meltdown!

Can’t. Stomp. Huff. Tears. Tantrums. Defeat.

Sound familiar? The curveballs that life throws in the path of our kids are mostly unavoidable, but arming our kids with the techniques to bounce back from the seemingly insurmountable are right there in front of us. If we can teach and model to our kids the ability to cope and adapt to challenge, when they are older, and the stakes are far higher - they will confidently know what to do.

Resilience is a lesson learned through explicit modelling, example and imparting of skills and strategies needed to better handle stress, setbacks, rejection and challenges.

We cannot expect young people to inherently know how to manage in the world. If they are left to their own devices, they can; reflect on rejection and begin to question their existence in the universe, begin to believe that a failure is the end and develop doubts for the future. Quite often this can lead to seeing challenges as impossible, fearful and anxiety provoking.

However, when young people; see resilience role modeled to them by parents of caregivers, have a supportive community to reflect with, and are explicitly taught the tools to debrief with a growth mindset, they will mature and grow into adults who have; advanced self-awareness capacities, the ability to remain hopeful in the face of adversity and will not fear failure but see it as an opportunity to grow and learn.

So, how best do we teach them? Author of ‘13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do’ and Psychotherapist, Amy Morin, LCSW suggests these five things to develop resilient kids…

Let kids experience rejection

Are you surprised to hear that learning how to handle being told “No!” is an integral part of developing resilience? The first experience of missing out on the sports team selection can be a difficult time (for parents included!!) and we can all identify with the urge to call the coach and question their selection strategy to change their mind and end the suffering of the child who just didn’t quite make it. However, parents who raise resilient kids use this opportunity to teach one of the most valuable life lessons: Rejection and Failure does not mean the end. This will happen for as long as you are willing to be in the arena. When rejection and failure happen, we have choices, a choice to respond. What will yours be?

Steer clear of victim mentality

In an attempt to discharge the discomfort and inconvenience of struggle we often blame others. Ever witnessed a child blame the poor results in a piece of assessment on their teacher? Morin says this is an extremely dangerous instinct to follow and only encourages children to feel helpless in the world and incapable of managing the injustice that they will inevitably face. In place of blame and victim thinking, parents are urged to be the role model and supportive guide for reflection and simply encourage to accept that the world can be an unfair place - while affirming that they have the strength and ability to deal with all the unfairness they will face. If you notice yourself blaming others in an unfair situation, your kids are listening!!!

Teach tools to self-soothe

“Buck up! Get over it… Forget about it. Just deal with it.” In a world where struggle and feeling can be seen as weak, we often hear children’s emotional reactions ignored, dismissed or seen as a undesirable character flaw.  Instead of ignoring their struggle and emotional outbursts, we can champion our kids with an entire toolbox of self-soothing strategies. Find the tools that work for your kids; breathing, colouring, play-doh, trigger balls, essential oils, candle reflection, music, journal, bean bag. These are not distractions or ways to avoid the emotional struggle, simply strategies to carve out time and space to calm the Limbic system down so that supportive debriefing can be done when your child is ready.

Allow your kids to struggle

Rushing in and saving your kids at the first sign of struggle is the worst thing we can do (albeit very tempting!). We can be there to support and guide, but avoid ‘saving’ your kids from challenge. Morin suggests that the most well adjusted children have had the experience that some things in life require hard work and that hard work can be really hard (!), but is a necessary part of moving forward in life!! Can you share stories or model to your children those experiences you have had where you just needed to act on your own and no one was their to ‘rescue’ you?

Provide an emotional vocabulary

Emotion ~ Energy in motion! Without the language and vocabulary to name emotions, they transpire in tantrums, aggression, bullying, misbehavior, inattentiveness, low mood, sulking. Parents who teach their children the words and strategy of labeling the emotion as it arises are giving their children the greatest tool for resiliency and emotional regulation there is; “I am feeling frustrated because I keep making the same mistake in my math equations,”  “I am mad at you for asking me to put away my toys,” “I feel disappointed in my result because I did put in effort for this assignment,” “I am feeling very sad because my friends laughed at my new haircut today.” By encouraging young people to articulate and simply say how they are feeling out aloud, you are giving that emotion a chance to be heard (and not bottled up). And conveniently, at the same time, you are giving your child the skills to begin the process of self-inquiry; understanding what triggers their emotions and coping with upsets of all kinds.

Interested in taking a self-stocktake? There is always time and opportunity to begin building these habits and strategies into the way you interact with your children. Find out about some powerful exercises you can begin with here.