Preparing Your Children To Be Emotionally Resilient

There are a lot of things that we want to raise our children to be in this world. Kind, brave, smart, responsible, generous, the list goes on and on. But what about being emotionally resilient? With mental health among young people being the poorest in decades, and today's children facing unprecedented pressures from growing up in a distorted world of filtered photographs and social media that their parents have only dealt with as an adult, it seems that the emotional toll on their self-worth is much greater than that faced by previous generations. And although it can be tempting to head straight to the source of the problem and attempt to blanket ban these channels, that's not really the solution. Mobile technology means that it's impossible to shield our kids from everything - and even if we could, it wouldn't leave them with the right skills to face these challenges in adulthood.

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Teaching Emotional Resilience

So what we really need to ensure is that our children have the toolkit to cope with the modern world we live in. Children have to cope with life drama and events happening to them and around them. While you would never want them to have adult levels of responsibility, they do encounter areas of stress such as tests and exams at school or changing schools, getting ill, processing new information, social pressure with friendship groups, meeting new people and even bullying. Giving them the gift of emotional resilience doesn't mean standing back and doing nothing, but nor does it mean trying to take away every problem for them. Both approaches are doing harm in different ways.

Teaching resilience means supporting, but also letting your kids develop their problem-solving skills. When faced with a negative issue, the emotionally resilient child will acknowledge that they are daunted, but will also be able to find good solutions to tough dilemmas or unfamiliar situations. They will know that they can ask for help, but also seek resolutions themselves. Because the truth is that the reality of life can be full of tragedies such as injuries, illness and even Wrongful Death - and when the worst happens, children have to process and deal with it too. All of us are born with varying degrees of resilience, and some children will naturally have more of this approach. Equally, there are things you can do to foster it's development in your kids - and you may even learn a few things yourself in the process!

Don't Be Over Accommodating

Wanting to meet your child’s needs is the essence of good parenting. But sometimes, this can go too far and result in you as the parent trying to completely remove any form of uncertainty. This doesn't allow kids to discover and develop their own problem-solving skills and find their self-reliance. In fact, over protecting can actually make them more anxious. Within safe parameters, let your children push past their comfort zone occasionally. Say you take them to a playgroup, and they don't want to speak to other children but are clinging to you instead. Approach a quiet corner where the activity isn't too overwhelming but then firmly leave them to it. Allowing them to cling to you reinforces the belief that they can't cope on their own, whereas a few minutes of discomfort will soon turn into happy play and a valuable skill of making friends.

Teach Problem Solving

Risk is a part of the human experience, and as parents we start off by judging for our children what is too big a risk to take. There comes a point where we need to step back and empower them to judge situations for themselves. Say they are anxious about a sleepover they have been invited to, or a test at school. Explore the source of their anxieties with them by asking open ended questions - ‘what is happening? How does it make you feel?’. Let them know that it's perfectly normal to feel a little nervous, and guide them towards practical coping strategies. ‘If you did X would it make you feel better? How about if Y happened?’

Make Mistakes Normal

Mistakes and failure are a crucial part of life and the creative process, so try to encourage a culture at home where making a mistake is not an issue - as long as your child learns from it. Letting them mess up when you can see it coming is an extremely hard thing to do as a parent, but it's hugely important. It lets children understand how to avoid the same mistake in the future, and also how to put things right. The essential thing is to show that actions have consequences, that mistakes happen in life and that it's how you deal with it and put it right that really matters.

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