On the Path to Resilience: Supporting Kids During Tough Times

Resilience has been in the spotlight recently with a lot of attention given to helping children grow into resilient adults who are able to process a wide range of emotions and focus on opportunities rather than dwelling on the negative.

We cultivate resilience every day when we build strong connections with our kids, help them problem-solve, and talk with them about how they’re feeling.  According to psychologist Roni Cohen-Sandler, how we support children through rough times, both large and small, is particularly powerful for shaping their future resilience.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Cohen-Sandler points out the following practices she has observed in people who raise resilient kids.  

Normalize Experiences. When kids are going through a hard time, it’s important for them to know that what they are feeling is completely normal, and no matter how intense their feeling is, you are there for them and it is going to be ok. 

Provide Physical Comfort. Stressful situations release a flood of stress hormones into kids’ bodies that makes it very difficult for them to regulate their emotions and their behavior. A hand on their back or a warm hug decreases stress hormones and can have an instantly soothing effect.

Prioritize Positive Relationships. It is common during childhood for children to have difficulty within their peer groups. Adults who foster resilience help kids evaluate their relationships  and decide which interactions drain them and which fill them up. They promote the quality of friendships over quantity. 

Focus on the Positives. When kids are really focused on what’s going wrong (they didn’t make the baseball team, or they got a bad grade on their homework), parents and teachers can validate their feelings (this is an important step)  and then redirect their focus to things that have been going really well or on a brighter side of the situation.

Provide Hope. It is helpful to remind children that whatever they’re feeling right now will change over time. This feeling does not define them as a person, child, friend, or student. They will feel better.

Chances are you are already doing some or all of these things. Take a moment to recognize the hard work you are doing to grow resilient kids. And in those moments when supporting our kids doesn’t come so easily or it doesn’t feel like there is enough time in the day, knowing the impact we are having can help us keep an eye on the goal and keep practicing these powerful resilience builders.  


Image: © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com

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