How to Bring Up Resilient Children

Have you heard the phrase “helicopter parent?” It describes a mother or father that ‘hovers’ around their child 24/7, overseeing their life to keep them from every potential danger, pitfall and mishap. Many parents whose children have experienced bad things tend in this direction. It makes sense. When your worst nightmare as a parent comes true, it’s a lot harder to give your kids the space they need to make mistakes, have adversity, and overcome it. In fact, it can feel like being a helicopter parent is being a good parent. In fact, it looks good on paper, but this kind of parenting forgets one important fact of reality: life happens.

Adversity happens to all of us, and it’s not actually a bad thing in the end. When bad things happen to kids, they learn what it takes to recover. They learn how to handle adversity well and come up with strategies and solutions. These are the kids that grow up to be resilient, getting right back up when life knocks them down a few pegs.

Here are some ways parents can raise resilient children:

Plant the Right Mindset

How your child sees the world and their own potential in it directly informs how they make decisions. Teach them a positive and empowering mindset from the beginning. Teach them that failure does not exist, only learning what works and what doesn’t. Failing grades and losing games aren’t the end of the world, though they may feel like it. What really matters is the commitment and effort they put into reaching their goal.

Teaching your kids a positive attitude from the get-go is only half the battle, though. Parents also need to help kids move through the more overwhelming events. In fact, this is often where a traumatic event can become traumatic. You see, when a situation is overwhelming for a child, a negative belief about themselves or the world gets stuck. Counseling can be really helpful here. By learning to face the emotions of what happened, you can begin to uncover the negative beliefs that got stuck and reframe them.

Don’t Meet Their Every Need

A child will never be able to develop their own coping strategies if someone is there every second making sure they never become hurt or disappointed. Do your best to NOT overprotect your children and give them some space to figure it out all on their own. As a parent, this can be excruciating, but gets easier with practice.

I like to practice breathing slowly and deeply while counting off the ways that my child is strong and capable. This helps me to hold back from rescuing. This actually helps our kids also because they pick up on our body language. If our body language is relaxed and confident, they will feel more confident to help themselves through whatever scrape they find themselves in.

Help Your Children Connect

Social children who are well connected to others feel a sense of support and resilience. Authentic relationships provide a safe space and a person to talk to about their feelings. Help socialize your child as soon as possible so they can form deep connections on their own as they grow.

Here is another opportunity to let them grow, though. Be sure to hold back and let them work through disagreements themselves. Obviously intervene when things are escalating to hitting or insult, but hesitate first and see if they can find a way to work it through themselves first. Then, find a quiet time afterwards to talk it through with your child. Ask them how they felt, how they think the other person felt, and what other options might have been to resolve the disagreement. Praise them when you see them doing positive things towards healthy conflict resolution.

Let Them Take Some Risks

All parents want to keep their kids safe, but there comes a point when you’ve got to let go a bit and let them learn HOW to be safe on their own. For instance, one day your child will need to get their driver’s license. You can help that older child be a safe driver by allowing their younger self to ride their bicycle around the neighborhood. This will teach them to pay attention, look both ways, etc.

Teach Them the Right Skills

Instead of focusing on the ‘danger’ or uncomfortableness of a situation, teach your child how to navigate it. For instance, if he or she is going away to summer camp for the first time, brainstorm some ideas of how they can learn to be comfortable away from home. Pack their favorite blanket. Talk to them about calling you at certain times to check in. Teach them how to solve their own problems. This is one of the greatest gifts parents can give.

Resiliency isn’t something that’s automatically handed down to kids; it’s something that must be instilled and molded over time. Planting these seeds now will set your child up for success in their future. If you’d like some extra support with this as a parent, or feel your child needs additional help working through a hard time, we’d love to chat. We offer individual, family, and group therapy services to kids, adults, parents and partners. Learn more here.

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