Encouraging Resilience in Children

Encouraging Resilience in Children

Encouraging Resilience in Children

Life is full of challenges and obstacles that can cause children to feel overwhelmed and frustrated. We all experience a range of stressors in our day-to-day lives, and children are no exception. Tripping and falling in the playground, transitioning to a new school, or not being able to complete a puzzle or activity, are all examples of difficulties our children may experience in their early years.

If we want our children to approach challenges and change with positivity and confidence, we must teach them to develop resilience. Building resilience comes from the development of social and emotional skills, which include coping skills. By developing the skills associated with resilience, children learn to be happier, and come to understand that they can cope with any of life’s challenges.

What is Resilience?

Resilience is the ability to approach life’s challenges with optimism and confidence in one’s own abilities to bounce back and thrive. All people are born with the capacity for resilience, it isn’t something that some people have, or don’t have. Instead, resilience is something that we all work on throughout our lives.

Why is Resilience Important?

Resilient children grow into resilient adults. People who possess resilience don’t dwell on failures. Instead, they acknowledge difficult situations, learn from any mistakes, problem solve with confidence, and move forward with positivity. Resilient people are typically healthier and happier, experience lower levels of depression, and enjoy greater success at school and work.

What Builds Resilience?

Children need both outside support and inner strength to build resilience. Outside support, such as caring relationships and positive role models, play an important role in teaching children that they are safe, loved, and accepted. Skills of inner strength, such as self-regulation, critical thinking, confidence, positivity, and responsibility, teach children that they are capable of coping with difficult situations.

How Does Montessori Encourage Resilience?

Montessori cultivates a culture of resilience by fostering the idea that children are capable learners, who can do, and think for themselves. In the Montessori classroom, this can be seen through a focus on independence and self-correction. If a child spills a drink, they are encouraged to clean it up. If they cannot complete an activity, they are encouraged to try again when they are developmentally ready. By allowing children to fix problems themselves, instead of removing them, Montessori empowers children with the confidence they need to bounce back from accidents or disappointments.

Three Ways to Teach Children Resilience

Independence

Encourage your child to try new things that they indicate an interest in, such as climbing at the park, or carrying their own glass of water. Don’t be afraid to let them try new things, even if you think they may be too hard for them. Children learn best through hands-on experience and practice. To encourage independence:

1. Embrace the Montessori concept of “Help me to do it myself.” When your child is struggling with a task, such as tying their shoes, resist the urge to take over. Accept that your child won’t get things right the first time, or the second, and that learning to become independent is a process that builds resilience.
2. Make time. Learning to become independent takes time and patience. If it takes your child 20 minutes to get dressed themselves, start your morning routine 20 minutes earlier. It is important to allow extra time in your daily routines to accommodate for your child’s emerging skills of independence.
3. Identify opportunities for independence. Create a list of things that your child can do for themselves. Examples may include: brushing their teeth, choosing their outfit, putting on their shoes, tidying up their toys, or putting their plate in the sink. Ask your child which duties they feel that can take on. Embracing your child’s independence is likely to increase their willingness to try new things.

Emotional Awareness

Approach tantrums and emotional outbursts as learning opportunities to help your child to identify and understand their emotions. Use three steps to help manage difficult behaviour:

1. Catch any negative thoughts and feelings of embarrassment: Your child’s behaviour is not a reflection of your parenting. Instead, it is a demonstration of their developing emotional and behavioural regulation skills.
2. Approach the situation with patience and empathy: Take three deep breaths, and think about the current situation from your child’s perspective. What is the likely cause of their behaviour, and how are they feeling? Are they hungry, over-tired, jealous?
3. Rethink and problem solve. Use the current situation as a learning opportunity to address the cause behind their behaviour. Talking through your child’s emotions with them, and validating their feelings, will encourage them to understand and express themselves, manage a wide range of emotions, and ask for help when necessary.

Confidence

Helping children gain confidence is best done through caring relationships, positive affirmations, and ongoing support. Activities that encourage confidence include:

1. Model Resilience. One or the first ways that children learn about resilience is from their parents. When parents cope well with stress in their everyday life, they are showing their children how to do the same. To model resilience, approach difficult situations with patience, and a positive can-do attitude.
2. Encourage your child to keep trying when a task is hard or frustrating. Use positive language about difficult tasks, and encourage your child to see challenges as opportunities to develop new skills.
3. Show them that mistakes are ok. Everyone makes mistakes, what’s important, is that we learn from them for next time. Encourage your child to see mistakes as opportunities to problem solve in a different way.
4. Actively point out your child’s strengths. Discuss and encourage your child to build on their strengths, as well as their limitations. These positive affirmations will become the “voice” in your child’s head. Hearing positivity helps children to develop a positive inner voice.