Everyday Ways to Teach Resilience to Kids
By Chelsea Lee Smith
Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy. -Robert A. Heinlein
With the plethora of shopping opportunities, the ability to communicate across the world in an instant, and electronic entertainment coming from every direction, life in today’s world is fast-paced and full-on. Anything seems possible. And with so many options and devices at our disposal, parents can be tempted to make their kids’ lives very easy.
Want that $2 toy? Okay, you got it. (Better to avoid a melt down, right?)
However if we want our children to stand up to the inevitable challenges they will face in the future and keep going despite disappointment or frustration, we need to help our children develop resilience. This means they need to practice coping skills, and therefore need some challenges to practice these skills with.
After all, life is not about figuring out how to turn off a thunderstorm or switch on the sun – no matter how much we would like this to be possible.
Our children will learn to be much happier, more resilient people, when they can enjoy the sunshine when it is around and dance in the rain when there is no other choice.
25 Ideas for Teaching Kids Resilience:
The list below is not your typical “do and don’t” list but rather a set of prompts to begin reflecting on ways we can teach children resilience through simple interactions every day.
- Give your child independence to try new things they initiate, such as climbing at the playground or opening a container, even if you think it is “too hard” for them.
- Encourage your child to serve others or let others go first when sharing food.
- Give your child the opportunity to wait patiently when it is required (such as in a restaurant or during a car ride); do not always provide entertainment.
- Show your child that it is worth making a good decision for the long run even if it’s not the easiest, such as choosing healthy foods over junk foods even if they take longer to prepare.
- Do not give your child every single physical thing they desire (toys, food, clothes, etc) even if “everyone else has it.”
- Enable your child to give toys and clothes away regularly to charity, and teach them that material possessions are simply tools and not answers to happiness.
- Give your child opportunities to help others younger than them, starting with simple ways such as showing the other child pictures in a book.
- Teach your child to identify struggles as challenges to overcome, not tests to avoid, and teach them phrases such as “this too shall pass” or “every challenge makes you stronger” to spark this outlook.
- Encourage your child to maintain a positive attitude about chores or homework by teaching them creative ways to find fun in work.
- If your child is older, give them the chance to wait for family meals instead of snacking any time they want.
- Remind your child to be patient with a younger sibling’s interference with their toys; teach them that relationships are more important than *things*.
- Help your child learn self control regarding electronic mediums and entertainment by demonstrating your own restraint.
- Allow your child to experience the extremes of temperature by dressing accordingly, not hiding away from the weather.
- Resist the urge to run to your child’s rescue immediately, such as when you see them having trouble putting on clothes or feeding themselves.
- Do not allow your child to interrupt when adults are speaking to one another; set up an age-appropriate method for them to practice taking their turn.
- Give your child many opportunities to share their belongings and their food, by inviting guests over and setting up ways they can be generous.
- Introduce new experiences to your child which will help them step outside their comfort zone, such as playing with children who speak another language and trying new foods.
- Do not give in when you have set a limit, such as an amount of TV they can watch or how much dessert they can have.
- When your child wants to find something, let them look for it.
- Teach your child how to be responsible for their own clothes as early as possible: to sort and wash and put them away – including washing clothes by hand and hanging them out to dry.
- Remind your children to do their best on school work, even if it means taking longer than they would like or staying up a bit later than normal.
- Require that responsibilities be completed even when your child does not feel like it, such as making beds, taking a bath, feeding the pets, and brushing teeth.
- When your child really wishes they had something, teach them to be grateful and find the best in whatever situation they are in.
- Let your child own their feelings, even if they are challenging, by not belittling the emotions but giving them a way to maintain perspective through phrases such as “Every challenge makes me stronger” or “A rainbow will come after the storm.”
- Enable your child to gain perspective about their reality by volunteering for charitable organizations that serve people who do not have the same life circumstances.
Books to learn more about teaching resilience:
- Nurturing Resilience in Our Children : Answers to the Most Important Parenting Questions
Every child is different, and will require a unique balance of support and challenge to rise to their potential. I do not want to leave my children totally on their own, but I also want to let them experience life and learn to solve problems independently when age-appropriate.
How did you learn resilience as a child? How are you helping your children become resilient?
Chelsea Lee Smith Chelsea Lee Smith is a mom, author, blogger and presenter on positive parenting, personal growth and values education. Her blog Moments a Day shares activities, and inspiration for families to work towards these goals. Her children’s book “Mason’s Greatest Gems” helps teach kids about finding and polishing the virtues inside themselves.