Helping Your Child Develop Resiliency
From the American Psychological Association
We tend to idealize childhood as a carefree time, but youth alone offers no shield against the emotional hurts and traumas many children face. Children can be asked to deal with problems ranging from adapting to a new classroom to bullying by classmates or even abuse at home. Add to that the uncertainties that are part of growing up, and childhood can be anything but carefree. The ability to thrive despite these challenges arises from the skills of resilience.
The good news is that resilience skills can be learned.
Building resilience — the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress — can help our children manage stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. However, being resilient does not mean that children won't experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common when we have suffered major trauma or personal loss, or even when we hear of someone else's loss or trauma.
Very young children will only recently have mastered the skills of walking and talking, and they may not be able to express their anxieties and fears. Although you may think they are too young to understand what is happening, even very young children can absorb frightening events from the news or from conversations they overhear.
Watch your children for signs of fear and anxiety they may not be able to put into words. Have your children become extra clingy, needing more hugs and kisses than usual? Have your children started wetting the bed or sucking their thumb after you thought they had outgrown that behavior? They may be feeling the pressure of what is going on in the world around them. Use play to help your children express their fears and encourage them to use art or pretend games to express what they may not be able to put into words.
Use your family like a security blanket for your children: wrap them up in family closeness and make sure your children have lots of family time. During times of stress and change, spend more time with your children playing games, reading to them or just holding them close.
Young children especially crave routine and rituals. If bedtime is the time you read stories to your children, make sure you keep that time for stories. Your child may be less able to handle change when he or she is going through a particularly rough time.
We all can develop resilience, and we can help our children develop it as well. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned over time. Following are tips to building resilience:
Developing resilience is a personal journey and you should use your knowledge of your own children to guide them on their journey. An approach to building resilience that works for you or your child might not work for someone else. If your child seems stuck or overwhelmed and unable to use the tips listed above, you may want to consider talking to someone who can help, such as a psychologist or other mental health professional. Turning to someone for guidance may help your child strengthen resilience and persevere during times of stress or trauma. Information contained in this brochure should not be used as a substitute for professional health and mental health care or consultation. Individuals who believe they may need or benefit from care should consult a psychologist or other licensed health/mental health professional.