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5 Building Blocks to Raising Resilient Children
Why coddling your child can lead them to be ill-equipped to deal with frustrations and situations they cannot control.
How well does your child cope with adversity, cope in difficult situations and learn from disappointments? In other words, how resilient is she? We often think our job is to protect our children from tough situations, but in fact, our protection is only protecting us. We donít want to deal with their anger, sadness, and fear our kids may feel. In many cases, we were not allowed these feelings as children so we donít know how to manage our childrenís feelings. Itís easier if they donít have them.
When we overly protect our children and try to make them happy, we inadvertently reduce their ability to cope with lifeís inevitable frustrations and situations beyond their control. Their problem-solving muscles atrophy so their answer to, ďWhat do you think you can do about that?Ē becomes ďI donít know.Ē
Building resilience in children requires us to:
* Trust our childís ability to cope.
* Convey in words and body language confidence in their capacity to rebound from disappointment.
* Allow, accept, and provide outlets for all feelings of sadness, fear, anger, and disappointment.
* Do not jump in to rescue them or fix situations.
* Balance our own wants and needs with theirs, which inevitably causes their frustration and disappointment.
Children are so much more capable of dealing with and solving problems than we give them credit for. Our natural sense of nurturing can easily switch to sacrificing and overprotection when we think we are responsible for their happiness.
We do not serve them by protecting them from disappointment or telling them they shouldnít feel what they are feeling. Let their tears flow; allow their anger and disappointment. You donít have to do or change anything. Simply acknowledge and empathize with those feelings. They need to know they are normal.
Many situations are too intense for young children: a school environment that puts on too much pressure, a truth that is too much to handle, etc. But life inevitably throws us curve balls, and how well our children are able to get over them and move on depends on their capacity to manage.
A schoolmate who taunts with a hurtful name, a desired toy you think inappropriate or unaffordable, a limit that feels unfair, an expected event that falls through all cause natural feelings. Expressing those feelings, problem-solving situations, making choices about how to handle them helps children make sense of their experience and builds resilience so they can move on.
Resilience is a sign of strong connection and healthy attachment. In order to provide the five building blocks, we parents must:
* Know the difference between our problems and our childís problems.
* Allow our child to experience and solve her own problems.
* Help and support her with her problem but do not fix it or tell her what to do.
* Provide her with outlets for feelings and aggressive actions: Punching pillows, role playing, fantasies, objects to kick or jump on.
* Have confidence in your own ability to cope with her feelings.
* Trust that you do not need to have the answers.
* Teach your children to problem solve.
Often parents ignore difficult situations not knowing what to do. You do not need to know the answer. Itís actually best if you donít so you donít impose your way on your child. This goes for your spouse too. Once you accept and provide outlets for your childís natural feelings, guide her to find her own answers. You can make suggestions if she is stuck, but itís best to lead her own thinking with questions and curiosity. She is capable of finding answers you would never think of.
When we tell our children what to think, do and say. By doing so, we risk creating their dependence on someone else to solve their problems. Bonnie Harris, MS Ed, is the director of Connective Parenting. She is the author of "When Your Kids Push Your Buttons" (2003), and teaches Buttons parent workshops and professional trainings internationally. Her second book "Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids Youíll Love to Live With" was released in 2008. Bonnie is the mother of two grown children and lives with her husband in New Hampshire. For more information visit www.bonnieharris.com.
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