Resilience or How to help your child overcome adversity

Feb 04, 2019 at 10:00 am by aGentleDrLaura


Resilience is a fancy word for how well you bounce back, rejoin your life, and overcome whatever hardship you face. People often think of resilience as something innate that you are either born with or not. But it’s not. It’s simply a set of helpful experiences that any parent, child care worker, teacher, etc. can give to children.

  • Solutions instead of problems.

Every person, adult or child, faces many adverse circumstances in their lives no matter who they are and how much you try to protect them. Concentrating on the bullying, school problems, social problems, trauma, single parent home or whatever your child faces is not helpful. When you direct your attention to your child’s problems, you accidentally end up defining them with the label of the problem. Instead, you can make solutions the center of your conversations.

  • Talk and listen to your child.

My own experiences working with children support the research findings that children whose parents both talk and listen to them thrive better in adversity. Listening is often difficult but it’s the contact and connection between you that makes is important.

They overcome hardships better even when their parents are so perfectly imperfect and do not understand what to do for their problem. Just seeing and making connecting your child can be productive and helpful.

  • Children need to learn thinking skills from you to face their lives.

Most of us want to protect our children from difficulties. Especially the ones we have! But that’s a false view of life. Instead, when you face a life problem of any kind, you could help your children by thinking out loud. You, then, model for him or her the thinking steps you know to take to face the difficulties life throws at you.

When your child comes to you for help, you can help them with their own thinking strategies by verbally walking through the steps of thinking about the problem. I wrote one version of those steps here: Six Steps to Problem Solving with Your Child.

•    Boundaries.

The word, boundaries, often leads people to think about discipline. Maybe even harsh discipline. But that’s not the issue here. Children need to learn the limits on their behavior from you.

Part of succeeding in life is controlling yourself when necessary. Children have trouble when they act out at school, at church or in community groups. They don’t solve their problems. Instead, they make them worse. Kids have fewer friends if they don’t learn common social rules and control their behavior.

This doesn’t have to mean discipline. It means teaching your child the rules of society that will help them cope.

Sometimes you teach boundaries by controlling yourself and not acting on impulse. And other times you teach boundaries deliberately by making household rules and enforcing them.

I’ll be writing about this more in the future.

  • Point out your child’s assets.

Praising children can be helpful or detrimental. If compliments are based on real behavior and assets, they can add to your child’s confidence. If they are an ordinary part of your life and not extravagant, your child can believe them. But if they are constant, not based on any real connection to your child and outside standards, they cause problems. People develop unrealistic expectations, low self-confidence, and a sense they don’t have to work for what they get in life. Those are traits not conducive to resilience and overcoming life’s problems.

  • Show them their ability to be effective in the world.

The literature calls this self-efficacy and self-efficacy differs from praise. Self-efficacy means that your child believes they can impact their life. That they can reach a goal, solve a problem, and overcome a challenge. Without this belief, most people don’t even try.

You can point out the times your child has already succeeded. You can tell them about the skills they have that could help them achieve.

This has been a brief column on the topic of helping your child thrive. If you want more help with this, write me with questions you’d like me to answer. I can always write another column to answer questions.

If you’d like more help, please call my office to make an appointment for Parent Child Coaching at 615-464-3791. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to assess if I can be helpful to you or your child.

I’d love to hear from you!



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