Raising a child is a tough task.
You love your children, and that means you want to protect them from everything the world may throw at them. However, by doing that, you’re actually stunting their ability to deal with challenges and overcome adversity.
It’s a doubled edged sword, but in order to raise a resilient child, you need to help them deal with obstacles and problems, rather than try and shield them from everything which may upset them.
After all, resilience is something we all need in life. This world is full of twists, turns, problems, upsets, and the new is rarely cheerful. By preparing your children for adult life in this way, you can ensure that when a roadblock is presented to them in adulthood, or even in adolescence, they’ll be able to see it as a challenge and handle it in a positive way, rather than allowing it to derail them, or forcing them to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Of course, childhood itself can be challenging. Problems in friendships, growing up, exams, school world in general, changing homes and schools in some cases, these can all seriously upset a child’s world and cause them to act out, rather than face the challenge and see it as a learning curve.
Raising resilient children has its challenges. To help you understand the best route forward, let’s look at 7 tips to implement.
Do Not Mollycoddle Your Child
You adore your child so you want to ensure that they never feel fear or anxiety, but this isn’t possible in reality. By mollycoddling your child, i.e. working to give them everything they need and taking away any fear, you’re not allowing the to develop the resilience they need to deal with life. This means they’re not gong to be able to make quick decisions for themselves or handle problems in the best way. By overprotecting your child, you’re actually making life harder for them, and probably making them more anxious in the process.
For instance, if your child is scared of the dark and they cry when you put them to bed in their own room, you might be tempted to move their bed into your room. This is a mistake. By doing this, you’re not letting them see for themselves that there is nothing to be afraid of.
Allow a Certain Amount of Measured Risk
We’re not suggesting you put your child in danger, but allowing a small amount of risk means that you’re allowing your child to develop the confidence and resilience they need.
The best route is to identify risk with your child and work out how best to manage it together. For instance, you could tell your child that they are not able to walk a certain way to school because the road they need to cross is very busy. That isn’t setting them up with the best skills for managing this type of situation and actually creates more danger. Instead, it is better to walk with them to school and help them understand how to safely cross the road. By doing this, you’re not eliminating the risks, but you’re giving them the tools and confidence to manage it in a safe way.
The amount of risk you allow depends upon the age of your child, of course.
Encourage Your Children to Solve Problems
Problem solving skills are vital for life, and you can help them to embrace this element by using their creativity.
For instance, your child wants to go and stay at a friend’s house for a sleepover. At first, they’re excited but then when the day of the sleepover arrives they become nervous because they’ve never slept away from home before. It is easy to tell them that they don’t have to go if they don’t want to, and instead let them stay home in their comfort zone, but this is going to cause a problem the next time they want to sleep over at someone’s house, or there is a school camp they should attend.
It’s better to explain that it’s normal to feel nervous, but that doesn’t have to stop them doing. It explore ways together to manage the fear, such as promising a telephone call before bed, or letting them take their favourite soft toy as something familiar.
Don’t Question Your Child’s Responses
By encouraging problem solving, you’re going to run into problems occasionally. This is normal, because your child isn’t equipped with the experience and skills to handle life’s problems yet. They’re going to come up with odd suggestions or perhaps do things which aren’t ideal. By questioning why they did something or why they suggested doing something, you’re wasting your time. The only answer they can give you is that they thought it was best.
Instead, it’s better to explore alternatives together. This will encourage them to continue trying to solve problems and overcome obstacles, rather than hiding away from them.
Try Not to Tell Them What to do
Again, we’re onto problem solving here. If your child comes to you with a problem, it’s very tempting to tell them what they should do, but by doing that, you’re not allowing them to think for themselves. When your child asks you what they should do, tell them that you’re not sure, and ask them what they think. You can then have a conversation between yourselves and guide them towards the best options, rather than telling them.
For instance, let’s go back to the sleepover example. If your child asks if they’re going to become homesick, it’s easy to say “no, don’t be silly, of course you won’t”, but it’s better to say “it’s possible, but if you do, what can you do to feel better?” You can then explore things together.
Understand That They’re Going to Make Mistakes
Every child makes mistakes, it’s part and parcel of growing up and learning. Without mistakes, children can’t learn the right and wrong way to do things. It’s easy to want to wrap them up in cotton wool and avoid these mistakes and tears, but that isn’t going to help them develop resilience.
We all fail on occasion, even as adults, so when your child makes a mistake, rather than berating them for it, explore why it happened and look at different ways to handle it together. You might also be tempted to stop something happening when you can see it coming, e.g. your child tries out for the football team, but you know that they’re probably not going to be picked for whatever reason. When they’re not picked, your heart breaks for them, but being overlooked can help them to work harder and be better next time.
Be a Role Model
Children learn by what they see their parents do, so make sure that you act in a way that you would like your child to emulate. When you’re going through a tough time or you’re in the middle of a problem, control your emotions and you’ll show your child that having an outburst isn’t the right way to deal with it, and being measured in your emotions is.
Similarly, when something doesn’t work out, don’t avoid it completely, simply come up with a different way to handle it. This will show your child that failure is sometimes normal, totally acceptable, and that you simply need to find a different route.
Lead by example.
Resilience Extends Into Adulthood
By helping your child to become more resilient in their early years, you’re setting them up for success in their future. A resilient child is far more likely to have the same, or more, resilience in their adult years, and that means they’re going to be able to deal with life’s trials and tribulations in a far healthier and more effective way.
Resilience will help your child to overcome disappointment and life’s inventible failures. It will help them to deal with their emotions and therefore develop stronger relationships with those around them, and it will give them confidence that they can handle anything which comes their way.
All of this starts when your child is young. Whilst it can be extremely tempting to want to shield your child from all the negativity in the world and let them believe that everything is hearts and flowers, you’re not something them a realistic view and you’re not giving them the tools and skills they need to handle whatever comes next.
Childhood can be as stressful as adulthood, simply in a different way. When your child hits their teenage years and they start to go through the heartbreak of first love, the fall outs with friends, the stress of exams, and the fear and uncertainty of what they want to do with their life, the resilience you have taught them will allow them to handle all of this with far greater ease than if you’d allowed them to see nothing but rainbows and unicorns.
It can be extremely tough to watch your child fall or fail, but sometimes it’s necessary for the greater good of the future.