Resilience… it is a far reaching concept. What enables us, as individuals, as families, and as communities to survive and adapt well in the face of adversity? Or for that matter, how do we get through each passing day in our modern world of high-stress, fast-paced activity, over stimulation and seemingly endless demands – and remain calm, flexible, balanced and feel ready to take on whatever the world throws at us?
Psychological or emotional resilience means bouncing back, being adaptive, and coping well amidst our challenges of the moment. Without resilience, we tend to turn to self-destructive methods (often unconsciously) to help us cope or numb out the pain of great challenge, or even small or medium-sized challenges. I am on a mission to increase awareness of how we can enhance personal resilience – and I think it makes a lot of sense to start with promoting resilience in our children.
For those of us who are blessed with the basics of survival – a roof over our heads, plenty to eat, etc. – I believe that putting ‘cultivate resilience’ on our daily to-do list may be one of the most important things we can do for our children. Here are five ideas for helping the children in your life become more and more resilient every day as they grow.
(1) Connection with others is an essential ingredient in fostering resilience. For this reason, recognise the current (healthy) relationships or connections your child has, and consciously create moments or activities to encourage an even stronger connection. For example, if a child has a close grandparent, or an encouraging swimming coach, or a teacher who really understands the inherent value of a child, or a friendship that is naturally strong but takes some effort to keep alive – all of these relationships can be built on; don’t take them for granted, as they are very important to a child’s sense of feeling supported and having people to turn to or talk to when they really need to.
(2) Create opportunities for teaching self-reliance and autonomy every single day. Nurture a loving relationship with them, support and protect them from danger, but resist protecting children from difficulties, hard work, and life’s realities. If we have confidence in our abilities and know from experience that we got through something tough, we will have increased confidence that we can cope with future challenges.
(3) Work on your own resilience. The greater our resilience, the more we can respond to the more challenging aspects of raising or caring for children from a place of awareness, and calm.
(4) Role model optimistic thinking. Without doubt, embracing and living with an optimistic attitude is imperative for coping well during a crisis. Optimism means to expect good things to happen in the future, to perceive that difficulties are often temporary, and that changing a situation is often possible. This is perhaps no easy feat; it may take contemplation, practise and a sense of trusting in life.
(5) Seek out activities or moments that will lend to building a sense of life purpose for your child. Research on resilience suggests that having life purpose is another essential element necessary for remaining resilient when facing adversity. Tune into what ‘lights them up on the inside’ – this often points to inner purpose for this child. Encouraging children to learn to listen to their intuition will further help to ensure that their life purpose(s) is naturally in their awareness.
What more could we want for our children, other than to be self-reliant, optimistic, have a strong self-worth and sense of purpose, and have an awareness of their inner strengths and outer resources to draw from when they are facing adversity and difficult times? We all have inherent resilience, yet we can consciously cultivate it, and I believe that in doing this for children it is one of the greatest gifts we could give them.
Nicki specialises in helping individuals, parents, families and communities to build resilience. For more information about Nicki’s clinic work or to make at appointment please click here