How to support your kids this summer so they return to school stronger and more resilient.
When we think about childhood, we often romanticize it as a time of wonder and innocence — immune from hardships, worries, and cares. But unfortunately, that’s just not the reality. We live in a complex and sometimes hostile world, and our children are not immune from stress, adversity, and even trauma.
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we need to provide our kids with strategies and tools they can use to help them work through challenges, bounce back from adversity, and face future difficulties. We need to equip our children to be resilient!
Learn more about building resilience in children at Fairmont’s Resilience Virtual Workshop
led by Children’s Hospital of Orange County CHOC’s Dr. Ava Casados on June 29th.
The American Psychological Association, defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors.”
Fortunately, building resilience in children is something that can be taught and incorporated in our kids’ lives. Here are some strategies for fostering this important life skill in your children.
Build Resilience by Creating Personal Connection
Pediatrician and human development expert Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D. has written extensively about the pivotal role relationships play in the process of building resilience in children.
“Developing close ties to family and community creates a solid sense of security that helps lead to strong values and prevents alternative destructive paths to love and attention.” Resilience is birthed out of healthy relationships with trusted people, be it a parent, a teacher, or other safe person. Be intentional about helping your child nurture rich relationships with mentors and peers.
Help Children Focus on Things They Can Control
Feeling out of control is a major contributor to anxiety.
“Recognizing and working on what you can control can be a valuable step in overcoming anxiety,” said Richa Bhatia, M.D., a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
Coach your child on how to make choices that will empower their resiliency journey, rather than working against it. For example, provide kids with this communication exercise: have your child write down their concerns and put them into two categories — things they can control and things they cannot. When a fearful thought enters their mind (likely something they have no power over), encourage them to shift their thinking toward something they can affect.
Encourage Kids to Practice Self Care
Stress is hard on both the mind and the body. Make sure your child has a nutritious diet so their body has the fuel it needs to be at its best. Physical activity reduces stress, reports the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, so incorporate some type of exercise into their routine.
This might also help improve the quantity and quality of their sleep — another important component of keeping anxiety at bay. Have them practice “mindfulness intervention” techniques, such as focusing on breathing, and encourage them to engage in enjoyable activities (e.g., playing with a friend, listening to their favorite music).
Build Confidence in Kids Through a Growth Mindset
A “growth mindset” — the belief that intelligence and talents are not simply fixed traits, but can be developed through dedication and hard work — has been demonstrated to contribute to a child’s level of resilience.
Wondering how to build confidence in kids? Turns out, children who embrace a growth mindset are more likely to try to work things out, rather than staying stuck in anxiety or despair. This builds confidence, which begets more confidence … something that ultimately prepares them for future challenges. Embracing a growth mindset will build resilience in your child.
Make Children Comfortable About Asking for Help
Some children may hesitate to ask for help because they are embarrassed or think it’s a sign of weakness. Help allay their concerns by welcoming their request for assistance.
They may be navigating a very difficult situation for which they are not prepared to handle alone. Having a trusted person (like you) to go to provides them with a safety net to build kids’ confidence.
When Building Resilience in a Child, Don’t “Fix It”
While it’s important for your child to know they can come to you for guidance, avoid the temptation to rescue them from their problem. In doing so, you will build confidence in your kids, aiding in their resilience.
“It’s perfectly natural for a parent to want to save their child from pain and struggle, but it’s also counterproductive,” said Jill Thomas, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Fairmont Schools in Orange County, California. “Think about a parent whose toddler is learning to walk. If the parent picks up the child every time she falls down, the toddler will never have the opportunity to get up on her own. It’s important to support your child as he grapples with a life challenge, but encourage him to find his own footing as much as possible — even if it means he gets a scraped knee in the process.”
Encourage Confidence by Creating Opportunities for Outreach
Sometimes the best way to get “unstuck” in our own dilemma is to focus our attention on someone else who needs help.
From visiting the elderly in a retirement community to organizing a food drive for the hungry to simply lending a listening ear to a friend who is hurting, the experience may help your child go from feeling hopeless to feeling hopeful. Knowing that they can make a difference in someone’s life is rewarding and empowering, both of which contribute to building resilience in children.
Seek Professional Help, if Needed
While the above strategies will be useful to many parents, some may have needs that require professional attention. If you have any concerns about your child’s mental well being, we encourage you to contact your healthcare provider or a licensed mental health professional.
A professional is able to work one-on-one with children to employ kid-friendly communication devices which will aid in building their confidence and resilience.
Are you interested in learning more about how to build resilience in your child or adolescent? Fairmont Schools is hosting a virtual workshop featuring Dr. Ava Casados, a child and adolescent mental health expert from Children’s Hospital of Orange County, on June 29 from 6:00 – 7:00 pm.
Dr. Casados will talk with parents about resiliency, good mood hygiene, building strong relationships, and improving communication devices for kids and families. This brief workshop outlines specific small steps parents can take to build resilience in their children so the rough patches are speed bumps and not derailments.
Learn how to help your children take on challenges, bounce back from difficulties, and feel confident as we head into a new school year. RSVP here to receive the Zoom link.