Resilience isn’t something that comes naturally to us; it’s a skill that we must nurture and grow. It’s about adapting during times of unexpected change and adversity – something we’ve all become very familiar with in 2020. As a result of Covid-19, we’ve spent much of this year living in a socially distant world full of constant change and challenges.
Our children have experienced perhaps the most change of all, with the sudden transition from familiar school life to home-schooling, and then back again – but only for a few weeks, before the summer holidays set in. Now, in September, children are entering another period of adjustment as they move on to their next stage of education.
With this comes new experiences and opportunities to try something new, take risks and learn from any mistakes made along the way. There’s no better time to nurture resilience in your child, and here are three simple ways to begin doing so.
Lead by example
From an early age, children will notice the way that we react to unexpected situations and it can heavily influence their own behaviour. An accepting, pragmatic mindset helps to keep things in perspective and allows us to look beyond the obstacle that we’re facing.
Joanna Fortune, a psychotherapist specialising in children and families, compares this to the instructions that the cabin crew give us during in-flight safety demonstrations. First, you must calmly put on your own oxygen mask, before helping your children to do the same. If your child sees you dealing with a challenging situation in a composed manner, then they too will know how to respond.
Focus on the positives
Optimism and resilience go hand-in-hand. Adopting a more optimistic mindset requires a shift in perspective and can often be achieved simply by stepping back and taking a moment to reframe the way that we view a tricky or unforeseen situation.
Let’s say that you’d planned to go for a lovely picnic in the sunshine, but dark clouds rolled over and brought a sudden downpour of rain. Instead, perhaps you’ll all stay indoors and watch your favourite films or play board games together – something you might never have done if your day had gone as planned. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to spot a rainbow from your window!
Language is incredibly important here too. Although you ‘could’ have done something else that day, try to avoid telling yourself that you ‘should’ have. Try to adopt a more resilient outlook by acknowledging, accepting and working around any obstacles, and your children are likely to follow suit.
Learn through play
During lockdown and the months that followed, you may have noticed a subtle shift in your child’s behaviour, such as the creation of new imaginary friends or playing with their siblings more frequently. ‘Playing is the language of kids… through their games, they are giving us emotional breadcrumb trails,’ says Joanna, encouraging parents to notice how their children might be playing differently to usual.
Cultivating a climate where children are unafraid of failure is an essential part of boosting their self-esteem and encouraging experimentation. Hands-on activities are perfect for this, as they involve lots of trial and error and present plenty of opportunities for children to exercise their resourcefulness, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The more resilient children are, the more likely they are to take risks, even if that’s stacking a precarious amount of building blocks on top of each other.
If we never encountered setbacks, we’d never learn or grow. Bouncing back from them requires persistence, enthusiasm and resilience, but it’s a really crucial part of personal development – and it’s never too early to start preparing.