Although childhood is often thought of as a carefree and idyllic stage of life, the reality is that life doesn’t exempt children from challenging situations. It doesn’t take long for every child to experience some form of stress, adversity, failure, or emotional pain. Without support and guidance, facing these challenges can feel overwhelming to a child. Fortunately, parents are uniquely situated to coach their children through sources of stress and discomfort. In this post, we’ll cover some top suggestions from therapists and other mental wellness experts on how to encourage resiliency and emotional wellbeing in your child.
- Make Connections – Teach your child the importance of developing relationships. Focus on valuable relationship skills such as empathy, cooperation, and listening to others. Not only can you help them learn these skills by modeling them, you can also praise your child when they exhibit these characteristics by showing kindness, asking questions about others, sharing, or offering to help someone else. Facilitate opportunities for them to practice connecting with others by organizing playdates and encouraging participation in sports or enrollment in a club of their choice. Even more importantly, teach your child to connect with family. Emphasize the importance of spending quality time and being there to support one another.
- Encourage Your Child to Help Others – The best solution to feeling helpless or sad is to reach out and help others. When your child is feeling discouraged or down, find opportunities to serve others less fortunate—whether on the playground or through age-appropriate volunteer work. Facilitate empathy by reminding them how challenging situations made them feel, then asking them to apply that memory to individuals going through something similar. Ask, “How did you want to be treated when you felt that way?”
- Maintain a Daily Routine – Just like adults, children crave structure. But unlike most adults, kids haven’t yet developed the discipline necessary to implement and maintain a daily routine. They need parental guidance to develop good habits. Design a routine that best fits your family dynamic. Maybe that includes mandatory bedtime, household chores, piano practice, homework time, or feeding the dog. Whatever your system is, make sure expectations are clear. Then, foster responsibility by using your discretion to hold children accountable. Patience and understanding are critical because self-discipline doesn’t come easily, especially to young children! Plan to balance consistency with a healthy degree of flexibility.
- Promote Healthy Risk-Taking – This will may look drastically different depending on the age of your child. For a young child, taking appropriate risks may look like striking up a conversation with a new classmate. For a teenager, age-appropriate risk taking could be a little more challenging, like applying for their first job. Whatever the scenario, it should include something slightly outside your child’s comfort zone. By encouraging your child to take risks, you’re teaching them that they are strong enough to handle and adapt to challenges—even if it doesn’t go their way. When challenges come, as they will in life, you’ll be there to guide your child through their first taste of adversity and to help them learn that failure never has to define us or have the final word.
- Embrace Mistakes – One of the most important skills for developing resilience is the ability to move past mistakes. When kids get caught up in fearing failure, their ability to take chances or to learn from their mistakes is hindered. Encourage your child by telling them that mistakes are a part of growth, and demonstrate this belief in your own life by being open about your mistakes and how you choose to stay positive anyway. Remind your child that failing at something does not make them a failure, and teach them not to take their mistakes too seriously by demonstrating a sense of humor over your own!
- Identify Emotions – In high-stress situations, emotions can easily spiral out of control. Teach your kids that recognizing and addressing feelings is critical, but also that emotions do not always reflect reality. Explain to them that emotions tell us important things about ourselves and how we think, and that experiencing negative emotions is O.K. Walk them through what they may be feeling and why, then help them explore the best response for their situation.
- Keep Things in Perspective – One of the most important things you can offer your kids is life experience and perspective. Help your child look at the situation they face from a broader context, keeping a long-term perspective in mind, is very helpful and an essential part of growing up. As a young person, we all remember how final and overwhelming every failure, disappointment, trial, or frustration seemed. Share with your child times in the past when you felt as they do now, and help them put those fears and feelings in context by describing how you were able to work through your situation and learn from it—and succeed anyway.
- Love Unconditionally – The most important thing you can do to foster emotional wellbeing and resilience in your child is to love them unconditionally. Many deep-seated anxieties stem from a fear that, in some part, love is based on performance. Remind your child that their successes, failures, good attitudes, and bad attitudes make no difference in the way you love them, and look for extra ways to demonstrate your love and support when they face challenges.
Mindboost helps students develop positive mental health habits they’ll carry through life. Contact us to set up a demo and learn more about how our mental health coaching app can make a difference.