Raising Resilient Kids

Sometimes as parents, we think it is our job to make our children’s lives easy by doing things for them, solving their problems and protecting them disappointment. The challenges or struggles that are children face are actually where they learn both the skills of problem solving and develop the internal sense that they are capable. Initially adults provide guidance, empathy, and support. Ultimately these experiences lead to them becoming resilient adults. Resilience, the ability to recover from or overcome adversity and challenge is something that we teach our children by modeling and allowing them to navigate the challenges without rescuing them.

  • Encourage your child to take appropriate risks like exploring outdoors, climbing on the jungle gym, making new friends. Be there for support and encouragement but avoid rescuing at the first sign of challenge. Help your child figure out what to do.
  • Teach and model that mistakes are opportunities to learn. When your child makes a mistake, calmly move him or her toward the repair. Did the milk get spilled? “How will you clean it up?” If you make a mistake, name it and share how you plan to fix it.
  • Teach problem-solving. Ask questions, “How did this happen?”  “What ideas do you have for fixing this?”
  • Help your children name and organize their emotions. We all feel frustrated, angry, disappointed at times.  It is what we do with these feelings that matters. Encourage your children to name the feeling. Saying, “It seems like you feel _____ because______ and you wish______” can help children understand themselves. For managing “big” emotions, adding other tools like drawing feelings, taking deep breaths, can be helpful.
  • Share stories. Talk about the challenges or adversity you’ve had in your life and how you managed it and what you learned from it.  Talking about how book or movie characters handle challenges can make interesting dinner conversations too.  “What would you have done in that situation?”

Take care of yourself.  Parents don’t rescue their children from adversity because they want them to be weak or incapable. We do it because when our children feel pain, we feel it too. We naturally want to protect them from life’s unpleasantness.  The problem is that they need the challenges of life to develop the internal confidence that they are capable. As the leader of your family you have to be able to hold your child’s uncomfortable feelings and be present. You get to practice guiding them in problem solving instead of problem solving for them.