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Raising Resilient Children

As an educational psychologist, I speak to so many parents who tell me, “I just want my child to be happy, that is all that matters.” I think this needs to change! Yes, we want our children to be happy, but it is unrealistic to expect anyone, adult or child, to always be happy or only experience positive emotions. As parents, we need to shift our mindset and acknowledge that not only is it acceptable, but actually vital, for children to experience a whole range of emotions. By allowing children the ability to feel and understand both positive and negative emotions, we are helping them build mindfulness and resilience. 

So how can we raise resilient children with the power to experience all emotions, cope with the negative ones, and in turn, be happy? 

Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress (taken from the American Psychological Association). Now, more than ever, we need to teach our children resilience. 

In order to do this, we need to try and do the following: (and yes, none of us are perfect so that’s why I say to try. The important thing with parenting is not to be perfect but to be conscious and mindful as much as possible and try do what you can)

  1. Quality time - When you spend quality time with your child they feel loved and supported and are able to develop emotional strength. 
  2. Talk about feelings – when your child learns to share ALL of their feelings, they establish trust. They need to see their role models (parents) appropriately display all of their feelings too. 
  3. Avoid learned helplessness – instead of rushing to solve every problem, give your child time to work things out themselves. They will feel a sense of worth and confidence when they are able to do something independently but with the support of their parents. If your child cannot find a solution to the problem, gently guide them through questions in order to help them find a solution. 
  4. Praise the process, not the end results – When children experience failure or disappointment, it is essential to praise their effort and encourage them to try again. For example, if we say, “What a beautiful drawing!” We set the expectation that every drawing has to be beautiful. Rather say, “What a colourful drawing” or “Look how much effort you put into this creation.” This way we are encouraging children to focus on the process of trying to achieve as opposed to achieving perfection.
  5. Acknowledge your own mistakes - We need to teach children that mistakes are necessary for learning and growth. There will be times when we may lose our temper and shout at our children, but we also need to apologise and acknowledge our behaviours.  
  6. Balance- ensure the whole family, including you, are getting enough rest, eating well and playing outdoors. Balance is key!

We need to be mindful of the emotions that our children are feeling, especially during these unpredictable times, and reflect on them. We need to give them the tools to be able to identify the words for their feelings. Once children can express and recognize specific feelings, they will be able to manage them effectively. By learning these skills, we empower our children to overcome challenges and be resilient. Who knows, at the end they may even be the ones teaching us!

 Written By: Farryn Kangisser 

Farryn is an educational psychologist in private practice and a mom of a 1 year old. She predominantly sees children and adolescents for therapy and assessments, as well as doing parent support work. She can be contacted on 0825364630 or farryn.edpsych@gmail.com and you can follow her on Instagram @littlelifelearnings

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