As parents, we do everything possible to keep our kids safe — from applying sunblock and making them wear bike helmets to using car seats and keeping up with vaccinations.
Building emotional resilience is equally important. Defined as the ability to bounce back and recover from difficult experiences, resilience helps kids adapt to change and adversity.
Here are some steps to help build resilience in your child. Many of these ideas are inspired by the book “A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings,” by Kenneth Ginsburg, MD.
- Parent with positivity. Resilience grows out of the confidence that comes from being raised with unconditional love. You can create this in part through positive parenting, which focuses on guiding kids toward positive behaviors rather than punishing them when they fall short.
- Let them stumble. Allow children to solve their own problems as often as you can. Did they forget their homework again? Have they hurt a friend’s feelings? Let them come up with solutions on their own. This gives them the strength that comes from knowing they can solve problems and handle what life throws at them.
- Create a circle of support. Kids feel most resilient when they are supported and loved. Make their circle of support as wide as you can by encouraging connections with family and friends. Get to know your neighbors and the parents of your kids’ friends by taking walks or sharing meals together. This lets kids know they have a safety net — and allows them to be strong when facing challenges.
- Volunteer as a family. Giving back to the community teaches children that there’s nothing wrong with accepting help. It allows them to ask for help from others if they need it.
- Parent with clear discipline. Teaching our kids how to behave well gives them strength and security. Children thrive when they know what’s expected of them — and what the consequences are if they don’t behave.
- Take care of yourself. Your stress level affects your child too, so be sure to care of yourself by sleeping, eating, and exercising. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk with friends, family, or a counselor. This benefits both you and your child.
Life will present our children with loss, tragedy, change, and illness — we can't avoid it. But we can help our kids weather storms when they arise.
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Kate Land, MD, is a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente’s Vacaville Medical Center and author of the Thriving Families blog.