How well does your child deal with adversity, cope in difficult situations, become stronger after disappointments? In other words, how resilient is she? We often think that our job is to protect our children from the tough situations of life, but in fact, our protection helps only us. We don’t want to hear their anger, experience their sadness, or deal with their disappointment. In many cases, we were not allowed those feelings so we don’t know how to allow our children to have them. They may frighten us—so we make sure they don’t have them. When we prevent these experiences, we diminish their resilience, their ability to cope with life’s inevitable frustrations and situations beyond their control.
Building resilience in children requires that we:
- Trust our child’s ability to handle difficult problems
- Convey in words and body language confidence in their ability to cope
- Allow and accept their feelings of sadness, fear, anger, disappointment over situations they cannot change
- Do not jump in to rescue them or fix situations that cause their frustration in order to avoid our own fears
- Balance our own wants and needs with theirs, which will inevitably cause 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 overprotection when we think we are responsible for our children’s happiness. We do not serve them by protecting them from unhappiness or telling them they shouldn’t feel what they are feeling. Let their tears flow; allow their anger and disappointment. You don’t have to do or change anything. Simply acknowledge and empathize with those feelings. They need to know they are normal.
Many situations are too much for children to handle: a school environment that puts on too much pressure, a truth that is too much to handle, etc. But life inevitably throws us situations beyond our control, and how well our children are able to get over them and move on depends on their resilience. A schoolmate who taunts with a hurtful name, a desired toy you think inappropriate or unaffordable, a limit that feels unfair all cause natural feelings. Allowing those feelings does not mean changing the situation or giving in to make them happy. Their ability and opportunity to feel sustains their resilience to move past the feelings.