You are about to embark on an incredibly complex but rewarding adventure- helping your child through the long journey of life. This journey you share together will shape the way your child thinks, behaves and interacts with the world around them, and it is crucial for them to be set up with the proper tools or skills to tackle whatever challenges may come their way.
Since we’re using the “journey of life” analogy, let’s think about it this way. If you were going on a trip, you would pack a suitcase with all the items you would need for the journey. Each item would be carefully thought about depending on where you planned to go, and over time your suitcase would fill up with the items you needed.
During the early stages of life, children have an empty suitcase just like you, except they don’t know how or what to pack because no one has taught them. Young children must be taught many things like what actions are wrong or right. Until someone shows or teaches them, children don’t realize that it’s wrong to pull a classmate’s hair or that sitting still and listening to the teacher is expected. Children also need to be taught how to deal with stressful situations when a parent or trusted guardian isn’t beside them.
Larissa Haring, the early and middle childhood program manager at C&A, says there are many things that can cause a child, or an adult, to become overwhelmed and anxious. It’s how we deal with these situations that determine if we are resilient or not. Haring says, “We have all been through difficult times, some misfortune and tragedies. We have all also experienced change which isn’t always negative, change can be good, but there is still an adjustment to things that are different and uncertain. We must outweigh the stress caused by misfortune and change with positive self-care, support and/or connections with others.”
Here are some things Haring recommends parents do to help their younger child learn to be more resilient.
- Don’t overreact- Children learn by watching those around them. This means they will often mimic the behaviors they see in their parents, teachers or playmates. So when you encounter change or a stressful situation, do not panic. Instead, remain calm around your child and assess the situation calmly before you respond.
- Label and understand emotions- Before we can expect children to do something about their feelings, we must help them understand what those feelings are. Label what you see and hear your child doing by using a feeling word to describe it. Then say to your child, “I hear you yelling. I wonder if you’re feeling mad about something.”
- Create a safe line of communication- For children, talking about their feelings can be difficult. They don’t want to feel judged or get in trouble for expressing those feelings. Set up a way for you and your child to talk about those feelings and situations that make them upset. This can be done daily at the dinner table, in the car on the way home from school, or in a journal that you pass back and forth. Just be creative and listen to what they are telling you.
Resiliency skills are essential for children of all ages to develop. Parent and teachers must encourage the development of protective factors, such as initiative, self-regulation and attachments to safe peers and adults. Reinforcing and building upon past skills year after year builds children’s coping skills so they are better prepared to handle challenging situations in a positive manner. As you help a child master the art of Resiliency, not only do you build their confidence but you also provide them with the tools to overcome whatever challenges come their way.
For more information about Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health’s services and clinicians, visit our website or call 330-433-6075.
This is Part I of a two-part series on Resiliency skills. Part II will look at resiliency skills for high school kids. C&A’s Early and Middle Childhood Program Manager, Larissa Haring, provided the information for this blog post. Haring also runs C&A’s Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) which provides parent with tips on speaking to their children about feelings and boundaries.