How to teach children to be resilient

Pandemic show importance of ability to bounce back, address adversity

Bouncing back during tough times isn't always easy, especially for children and teens. But experts say there are ways to help your children become more resilient.

DETROIT – The pandemic has shown us the importance of bouncing back from difficult times -- but that’s not as easy for children and teenagers to do.

Luckily, experts say that there are ways to teach children to become more resilient, even from a young age.

For Alicia McKay, resiliency for her children stems from rest. The Harper Woods mother of two says her and her children, ages 5 and 9, are all exhausted at the end of the day, but still come together for circle time.

“The thing is that resilience doesn’t necessarily come from your ability to always be 100% on, always be strong, always be ready,” McKay said. “It really comes from your ability to bounce back. And we need to bounce back from a time of rest, a time of reflection, a time of recharging.”

The working mother says that she believes her children are more resilient when they’re well rested.

“Without rest, that’s where we get the temper tantrums, that’s (when) the kids wanna quit their sports, they wanna give up, they wanna push back -- because they’re tired,” McKay said. “They’re exhausted. They’re like mentally depleted.”

In an effort to help teach resiliency, McKay is teaching her children to become more independent thinkers and solve problems on their own, which she says helps boost their confidence.

“We’re not going to be around for those very tough moments, and we won’t always be there to interject,” McKay said. “So we have to give them the confidence that they can brainstorm about ways to solve problems, ways to deal with tough situations and ways to exit tough situations.”

Related: Vaccines are here. School’s open. Some parents still agonize

For those wanting to teach their children to become more resilient, there’s good news: Experts say children can begin to learn resiliency at a young age.

“I think resiliency and being able to conquer anything that life throws at you absolutely goes hand in hand. Combine that with COVID, and our kids have been through a lot,” said therapist Kelly Houseman. “So, our jobs as parents, and educators, and just supporters, is really to kind of help teach them how to handle adversity so that they can come out of it stronger.”

To start, Houseman says it’s important to encourage children to open up.

“One of the best things that parents can do is really getting their children comfortable sitting with and talking about their feelings. This could be as simple as if they’re sad about losing a game, or it could be even feeling depressed or anxious about something,” Houseman said. “Being able to talk about their feelings without any kind of judgement to themselves, or external judgement, is really important.”

It’s said that parents and families should also prioritize building connections with one another to establish a strong foundation together.

“I think one of the bet things you can do is really identify and build a support system for your children,” Houseman said. “Of course parents are great, but also identifying any friends, family, teachers, even a medical team, knowing that children are surrounded by people who care about them and want them to succeed ... knowing that they will be there for them no matter what is so great for building self confidence.”

Houseman also says to try challenging your children to something new, even if it seems a bit scary, as growth and accomplishments are often realized outside of one’s comfort zone.

Parents and families should also be conscious of their behavior and emotions around children, since experts say kids will model their parents’ behavior.

From 2020: Global survey finds people more resilient, adaptive during COVID pandemic

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