Most parents desire to shelter their children from discomfort, pain, and fear. Still, there will be times when our children will experience emotional and/or physical distress. The ability to manage stress and recover from trauma and adversity is termed resilience. In parts 2 and 3 of this series I introduced ways to use Fairy Tales and Scripture to teach life lessons to children. Many have yet to discover that many Fairy Tales are similar to or connected to real stories and parables in the Bible. Storytime allows downtime to disconnect from media, technology and external pressures and engage imagination, adventure, and problem-solving. Below are 4 steps you can use to inspire children to internalize the messages that they are strong, capable, individually created by God with unique gifts they can use and share in life. These 4 steps can be remembered as GRIT.
Get Connected. Notice your child. Listen to them.
When a child knows they have the unconditional support of a parent, family member, or teacher, they feel empowered to seek guidance and make attempts to work through difficult situations. Positive connections allow adults to model coping and problem-solving skills. Children develop resilience when they are gently guided to navigate adverse situations in a way that empowers, and enables them, and teaches them to take responsibility for their actions. We can do this by intentionally asking them questions rather than lecturing. Ask your child to come up with a list of possible solutions, then discuss the pros and cons of each proposed solution. Remember that children need to experience discomfort so that they can learn to work through problems and uncomfortable emotions. Without this skill-set in place, children will grow into anxious adults who shut down in the face of adversity.
Ratify healthy risk-taking.
It is important to raise kids to take healthy risks. What is a healthy risk? A healthy risk is something that pushes a child to go outside of his/her comfort zone but results in little harm if they are unsuccessful. Examples include trying a new sport, volunteering for the school play, or striking up a conversation with a new student. When kids avoid risk, they internalize the message that they are not strong enough to handle challenges. When kids embrace risks, they feel capable and learn to push themselves, even when things don’t go as expected.
Invite Questions & Label Emotions
When stress and/or fear kick in, emotions can escalate. Teach your children that all feelings are important and that labeling their feelings can help them make sense of what they are experiencing. Tell them it’s okay to feel anxious, sad, jealous, etc. and reassure them that bad feelings usually pass. Relate their experience to something you’ve previously read to them or shared. Assist them in seeking ways to reduce and/or combat their discomfort. Acknowledging their discomfort can be helpful.. Help them reframe their thoughts to find something positive. The current message that most people hear in the media is that you have to be happy and optimistic. This is one reason so many people have become intolerant to loss, mistakes, or sadness. People with resilience, however, see things exactly as they are and still remain optimistic.
Teach coping/calming/problem-solving skills
Six decades of research indicate that a child’s resilience mostly depends on their connections to other people, rather than their own inherent qualities.. Children can experience support from family, friends, people at school, and members of the community and acquire the following:
- A sense of worth and connection through spiritual and cultural beliefs, goals, or dreams.
- A new talent or skill in a particular area (e.g., excelling in school or in a sport) increases self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy.
- The ability to self-regulate their emotions by using coping skills that can be applied to varying situations.
Remember, being brave enough to face reality is what gives our children authentic motivation and strength. Tell them that they are resilient and that the situation, whatever it is, is not a permanent condition.
Till next week!
Photo source: Bravenewbiz
Dr. Marie Yvette Hernández-Seltz is the director of Candescent Counseling, Consulting & Coaching. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology and an MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She has spent the past 15 years studying self-esteem, self-confidence, responsibility, and the effects of environment and culture on the individual.