Whether kids make mistakes or experience tragedy, they need to know how to recover. Everyone’s life is full of upswings and downswings. Sadness and tragedy happen, as do triumphs and successes. When kids are taught to be resilient, they will be more apt to take risks, bounce back after failures, and recover after tragedies.
Teaching resilience is a major part of instilling a growth mindset in children. The idea of a growth mindset means that people see their abilities as qualities that can be developed over time, rather than something that is fixed. When we encourage a growth mindset, we teach kids the importance of making mistakes, rather than focusing on perfection. Not a lot of kids like making mistakes. Whether as a tool for bouncing back after making a mistake, or as a way to recover after things go wrong, we need to show kids how to be resilient.
How do you teach resilience? The first step is being proactive. We don’t need to wait for a setback to happen to teach kids how to bounce back. Start fostering resilience with these ideas:
Get Comfortable with Risk
We all want to protect our kids, but if kids never take risks, they won’t learn what to do when they fail. Reading about these playgrounds in England got me thinking about the importance of risk-taking. When we create sterile, over-protected environments, kids don’t have enough chances to learn their boundaries, fail, and practice recovery. Of course we’re not going to send our children into genuinely dangerous situations, but take a moment to think about ways that you can encourage some healthy risk and/or situations where your child might not succeed. This could be allowing your kids to walk on wobbly pieces of wood (if they fall or feel scared, they will learn a way to do this better) or letting your child be in charge of turning his homework in (if he doesn’t, he will face consequences at school and learn to be more responsible).
Feel Your Feelings
Resilience is not the same as just “pushing through.” To truly be resilient, we have to encourage kids to feel and process their feelings. No matter what they’re feeling, it’s important to teach kids that feelings are okay. Find ways to talk with your kids about their emotions and hold space for every feeling. When something awful happens, kids need time and space to feel sad. When they make a mistake, kids need permission to feel embarrassed. The wonderful book The Whole Brain Child calls this strategy “Name it to tame it.” It is incredibly powerful to name feelings and give kids space to process them.
Sometimes kids can feel like they are the only ones who have big feelings. Remind kids all feelings are okay, and everyone has bad times and good times. It’s part of life. Read stories about kids going through similar experiences, share about times that you have had big feelings, and take action to normalize kids’ feelings. If you’re looking for a resource to help your kids about feelings, be sure to check out our Feelings Pack!
As my dad says, ”We’ll all have different problems in a month.” Getting this perspective can be a wonderful shift out of the big feelings kids are feeling in the moment. Even if they are feeling awful, this feeling won’t last. In fact, the average feeling only lasts 90 seconds. Some feelings will always be there — like sadness over the death of a loved one — but that doesn’t mean kids will never experience positive feelings again. There will be brighter days.
When the time is right, turn big feelings into action. Maybe this means trying a task that didn’t work before. Or maybe it means helping other kids going through similar things. Owning your experience, embracing bravery, and moving forward can be wonderful ways to put resilience into action.