You may have come across the somewhat grim and bleak saying, "Nothing is certain in life except for death and taxes." It's my understanding that the birth of this phrase can be traced back to a novel authored by Daniel Defoe in 1726. Apparently, the notion that we all face troubled times has been around for quite awhile! While it is certain that we will all encounter difficult life events the journey ahead need not be one of despair.
Resiliency is a valuable life skill that we can call upon when the going gets tough! Resilience is both simple and complex. At its essence, however, it can be described as the process of adapting well to the stressors - school difficulties, friendship challenges, family complexities, health problems, significant changes and transitions - of life. It is not uncommon for adults to idealize childhood as a carefree time and to falsely believe that children do not face significant stressors. In fact, children face many of the same stressors that we do and can greatly benefit from learning ways to interpret their world in ways that help them to feel more safe, calm, and secure. Resilient individuals adapt more successfully to challenges and are able to face stressful conditions with a greater sense of ease. They tend to have a more positive view of themselves, others, and their circumstances and believe that they have the capacity to cope with challenges that lay ahead.
Resilience is a skill that we can all nurture and help our children to develop as well. Research has taught us that there are beneficial thoughts and behaviors that we can all learn and practice to help build this important skill. There are a variety of factors that contribute to developing resilience. It can be helpful to think of developing resilience as traveling along a journey. Here are five helpful strategies for becoming more resilient.
1. Get Socially Connected
This is not a call to sign up for all the social media that you can find. While connecting electronically is better than no connection at all, face-to-face contact is irreplaceable. The importance of investing time in making friends, spending time with loved ones, and developing a supportive social network is key. Teaching children the importance of empathy and other friendship making skills will be helpful.
2. Build confidence and competence
Children who feel that they are able to do well on tasks and activities that they are engaged in develop a more positive view of themselves. Emphasize the effort that a child displays rather than focusing solely on the end product. Helping children learn to set and achieve their goals can go a long way towards building confidence. Competence can be built by focusing on strengths and addressing underdeveloped areas by learning, practicing, and consciously using new skills.
3. Self care
Taking time out for self care is always important. Some describe this using the analogy of sharpening the saw. Time for self-renewal is critical during times of distress and can be even more difficult to put into practice when pressures seem to mount from all angles. Teach children to value and even schedule, if needed, time for self-care. This should be a special designated time just as time is devoted to homework, athletics, extra-curricular activities, and time with friends. Remembering the next tip, perspective, can help in the endeavor for better self care.
4. Keep things in perspective
When your child is facing a tough situation it can be very comforting to adopt a broader perspective. Help children learn to see the positive future beyond the current difficulty. You may need to help your child do this by recalling past successes and to even draw upon lessons learned from previous challenges. Being able to laugh at one's self, to find humor in life's situations, and to enjoy the positives in the present moment are very important.
5. Continue moving toward goals
Facing life's setbacks can have an unfortunate effect of deflating one's energy and drive for striving towards goals. Helping children to identify personal, family, and school-wide values is important. When we lead a values driven life it is easier to move toward goals in the face of adversity. Being mindful of values can help children develop character, demonstrate a caring attitude towards others, and feel a sense of community and connectedness.
Building resilience is a process that will take time and energy. There are many steps one can take toward building this helpful skill and we hope the five we've listed will help set you on the path. Certainly there is no one approach that will work for everyone and if we can help please let us know.
J. Oni Dakhari, PsyD
NJ # 4481 DE# 736