As optimistic as it may seem, I’m sure many of us had hoped that as we welcome in the New Year, we were to simultaneously farewell the chaos of 2020. However, in light of Australia’s most recent border closures (and ongoing, unfathomable challenges overseas), it is clear that the world isn’t changing overnight.
While the challenges from COVID-19 continue to evolve, one of the greatest tools we can try to harness is resilience, especially in children.
With school right around the corner, We are sure, like us, many of you are thinking about how you can set your children up for success in the coming year. For 2021 resilience is even more important - knowing that frequent and volatile disruptions of COVID-19 could bring more turbulence for us all, including the smaller members of the family (who generally thrive on routine and regular peer interaction). We were curious about how we could help our little (and not so little) ones and are sure others will benefit from our research. Read ahead to find out what we discovered.
Resilience in children
Resilience is a child’s ability to deal with life’s uncertainty and bounce back from difficulties such as stress, adversity and failure.
What’s important about understanding resilience in kids is that it’s not something they are born with - it is a skill and, just like acquiring any skill, it takes time and energy to master. With that being said, learning how to be resilient is abstract and therefore more complicated than learning how to read or ride a bike.
Not only does resilience help kids to navigate the tough times, but it stands to reason it can help children to thrive - putting them in good stead long after the current COVID 19 situation has resolved. According to Katie Hurly, a licensed clinical social worker, resilient kids are more likely to take healthy risks as they don’t fear falling short of expectation. Healthy risks help fulfil a child’s need for thrills, in a safe way, doing activities such as rock climbing or running for as class captain. According to Team Kids, these types of risks can help kids to build confidence, social skills while also helping with decision making and safety awareness.
Strategies for building resilience
As we are not experts in this area, we’ve explored key strategies recommended by those who are qualified to do so.
Building strong connections
Beyond Blue suggest that quality relationships are an important factor in building resilience. As parents, helping your child to strengthen their relationships with their peers and influential adults (including yourself) will help them develop resilience.
They add that this can be done through a number of ways such as: spending quality time with them, showing warmth and affection, encouraging your child to socialise with other children and through role modelling your positive relationships. This is the very privilege that was compromised in 2020 as we were all, to varying degrees, forced to isolate. Make the most of these last few weeks of holidays and early into the new school year to support and foster your children’s peer relationships.
Encouraging your child to take on more responsibility and develop a sense of independence can also instil growth and resilience. Independence can be achieved through educating children on problem-solving skills rather than rushing to fix the problem for them yourself. Although tempting to offer up a solution, brainstorming together will encourage independence. While broadening responsibilities can be as simple as helping Mum or Dad out with a meal, or tidying up the toys.
Understanding and managing emotions
Children typically don’t inherently understand how to communicate their emotions and often express how they’re feeling in other ways. Psycom suggests that helping your child to identify their feelings, and make sense of them, can help to regulate and manage emotions. This can be done by reassuring them that it is perfectly normal and okay to feel the way they do, whether it be frustrated, jealous or anxious. As we see it this is a big one for the coming year - open communication about how they are feeling (and modelling this by talking about how you feel) will help children manage the changes that may come our way.
Seeing the silver-lining
Choosing to focus on the good in a difficult situation is key to harnessing resilience. Psycom recommends teaching your child to reframe his or her thoughts to find the positive. This factor holds especially true when we think about sacrifices made as a result of COVID-19. Glass half full anyone?
Building resilience is a complex and continuous process, even on an adult level!
However, by doing what we can to help promote resilience within our children is certainly a step in the right direction to help them (and us!) navigate through the year ahead.