Every parent wants to raise a resilient child, but what does it take from us to cultivate this life skill?
Lydia Lim, a psychologist and consultant with Focus on the Family went on radio to share more about how we can intentionally build resilience in our children to give them a head start in life. Here are some of the essential tips she shared during the interview.
1. Let them share in our struggles
According to Lydia, sometimes parents hold back from sharing their struggles with their children because they think they can’t share a lot with them. But “sharing our struggles with our kids help them to understand what stress is and how to be resilient,” she explains.
Letting our kids in on our personal struggles and stresses may actually aid in their ability to manage their own stress. For example, when they see us asking for hugs when we’re feel down or overwhelmed, they learn that when they’re stressed out, they can also ask mum or dad for a hug.
Sharing our struggles with our kids help them to understand what stress is and how to be resilient.
2. Understand and work with their personalities
“Some kids are more resilient due to their personality,” Lydia describes. She goes to relate an example: A boy and a girl are playing with blocks. When the blocks get accidentally knocked down, the more resilient child will typically throw their heads back and redo it, or move on to something else. That is natural resilience. A child who is sensitive to discouragement gets upset, mulls over the setback, and decides if they want to try again.
For children who seem to be more sensitive to discouragement, understand that they have, what she calls, “a natural emotional drive to stop the pain.”
Because this is how they’re wired, you may have to provide more support, perhaps in sitting with them through that daunting task, or helping them to experience small successes.
3. Allow them to experience difficult emotions
When a child cries, most of us instinctively try to stop the tears from flowing. We tend to say, “Don’t cry! Don’t cry! It’s okay.”
According to Lydia, doing so may actually backfire. She advises us not to halt the emotional process, but to let it run its course. “Let your children know it’s fine to cry, and tell them to let it out,” she explains.
Let your children know it’s fine to cry, and tell them to let it out.
Afterwards, when your child is ready, you can process with them how they felt, and try to understand what made them feel so upset. If they are too young to express it in words, just continue to be present, and ask “Shall we try again?”
4. Affirm their gifts
Our children need us to acknowledge and affirm their gifts and efforts at accomplishing something.
This affirmation is at the heart of the recent Race to Praise campaign organised by Focus on the Family Singapore.
States Lydia, “Affirmation allows people the security to work on things they are not yet good at. When our children feel positive and affirmed, they will gain the courage to try to conquer the world. This process of affirmation and growing confidence really begins at home.”
She advises us to take time off our busy schedules to have unhurried conversations with our children. This will help them understand they are valued and worthy for who they are instead of what results they can achieve.
Having unhurried conversations with our children will help them understand they are valued and worthy for who they are instead of what results they can achieve.
5. Give them space to breathe, then reconnect
At times when your child is overwhelmed, recognise that they just need some time and space to breathe. Assure them of your love and let them know you are coming back and will pick the conversation when they are feeling better, Lydia advises.
We can even be creative about it, by asking them to come knock on our door, or hanging a “I’m ready” sign on their door knob, when they feel ready to talk. Or they may even draw out their feelings and wishes, to show you what is going on inside. This gives children alternative ways to say, “Mum, I’m ready but I want to try something different in telling you how I feel.”
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