How do you help build resilience in Children?
We’ve all heard the story of the well-intentioned person who tried to help the butterfly out of its chrysalis, but in doing so, prevented the butterfly from strengthening its wings so that it never took flight.
Our relationship with our children is not dissimilar. Often when we see them encountering difficulty, our immediate instinct is to help them or remove the obstacle altogether. But in doing so we may inadvertently be doing them a disservice.
But what about little babies, you may ask? Surely it is a role of a good mother to protect and help her little bub. Of course it is, but there is also a time when all the basic needs of the baby are met, and the baby is in a safe and protected environment, that the mother should put the baby down to explore. In doing so we foster the child’s curiosity. As the baby tries to reach out to touch different objects it is stretching its limbs, building muscle strength, improving hand eye co-ordination and confidence. But, isn’t there the danger that the baby might fall? As long as there is no danger of injury, it is precisely by falling and picking itself up and trying again, that a baby learns to walk. This is in a sense, a metaphor for life – we struggle, we fail and we try again until we succeed.
As the child develops vital life skills that require patience and support, such as feeding themselves, or brushing their teeth, the same practice and support is needed for their social and emotional skill set too. One of the key aspects in building their emotional and social skills, is to help them grow resilience.
So what is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from disappointments, obstacles, challenges and failures. The ability to pick oneself up and be willing to try again despite the fact that one may fail again.
And more importantly, can resilience be developed?
The good news is yes it can. Just as the baby needs ample opportunity to fall and stand up before it learns to walk, or the butterfly needed to strengthen its wings before it could fly, children need to practice the skill of bouncing back through their experiences of emotions that they find challenging, or disappointing.
A key factor is having a secure sense of attachment to a parent or caregiver. This is a vital tool in allowing a child to learn to communicate their negative feelings or experiences. Research has shown that children who have a strong sense of attachment, and feelings of security in early childhood, are able to learn and demonstrate self regulation more effectively.
What are some ways we can help build resilience in children?
Building independence in a child is the most natural and effective manner to allow a child to build resilience. Every child loves to try things out for themselves. Whether it’s reaching out for a toy when they’re a baby, or wanting to feed themselves as a toddler. Allow them to do this in an unhurried manner. Let them be messy, let them find their way. It is a child’s natural tendency to try things for themselves. Be patient. Let them struggle. Let them practice. As they try and try again, they learn new skills. They also don’t always get it right the first time and sometimes feel frustrated. Have you ever watched a child trying to button up a coat, or try and tie shoelaces. As they experience the frustration and develop the ability to express and communicate these frustrations, they cultivate the ability to process these emotions.
Children love to play and explore and satisfy their curiosity. They should be given ample opportunity to do so. By choosing mates, games and environments, they practice decision making at an age appropriate level. They learn to negotiate, communicate, turn take and problem-solve as they have interactions with their peers. They are also faced with the experiences of choosing adventures and games that challenge them. In addition to acquiring physical competencies as they try out different pieces of equipment, they also build social and emotional competencies through their interactions.
And finally, building confidence is a vital ingredient in building their resilience. As they overcome obstacles, learn new skills, adults need to foster positive language around their efforts, and celebrate their willingness to try. Show children that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them. Build on a child’s strengths. Remind them of moments where they overcame a hurdle, especially when they feel frustrated. Encourage children. Be patient. Allow them to express their emotions and feel them, and then teach them the language to communicate their feelings.
The fundamental principle to building these competencies lie in a strong bond between the primary adult caregiver and the child. This adult needs to constantly review and be aware of what’s happening for the child. This bond of care and attachment builds a sense of security in the child and allows them to feel safe and secure, even when things are not going their way.
We base our centre days around creating opportunities for your child to grow and explore. We create a safe, supportive environment and then encourage them to flourish. If’d you’d like to learn more about how what we are doing and how you can do the same at home please ask! It’s why we are here!
This article was written by Shehnaz, our Centre Owner. and child development enthusiast. After raising three beautiful children of her own she realised her passion to ensure that every family would have access to quality, child focused care that would help nurture and empower the next generation.