By Stephanie Batty
Everyone of every age experiences stress – it is an unavoidable and important part of life! It fosters adaptation and growth. We are tuned by stress much like a violin is tuned by fine adjustments made to its strings. Our ability to cope and adapt dictates whether we break or play beautifully. Small stresses in childhood prepare us to handle larger stresses as we grow older. This ability to handle stress is what we call resilience.
It is important for our families to develop resiliency, or the ability to overcome and adapt to stress and adverse conditions, and we do that beginning when our children are young. Resilient children thrive and tend to make better decisions as they get older. This doesn’t mean that resilient children respond well to all stressful situations. We must remember that everyone has weaknesses and breaking points. As we help foster resiliency in our children, there may be times when they respond by getting angry, crying, or withdrawing; these are signs that they need your support and guidance.
Regarding resiliency, Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child’s stated, “The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.” This kind of relationship gives children a sense of security and support that allows them to build self-confidence and autonomy. A confident child is able to make decisions and follow through on them. The prefrontal cortex, or the control center of the brain, is engaged when children make decisions. It is in charge of executive functions such as controlling impulses and emotions. Maintaining control in stressful situations helps children think clearly in order to make better decisions. These skills help children build more resiliency where they are able to adapt and recover from difficult times. This allows children to act rather than react to the challenges they face.
If the thing children need most is a stable and supportive relationship, then developing that kind of relationship is the first step. There are a few easy things parents can do to work on the relationships they have with their children. First, listen to your children. Let them tell you about their day, problems they have, or whatever they want to tell you. Don’t interrupt them or look at your cell phone, just listen to them, really listen.
The importance of coping strategies
If your children tell you about their problems, don’t rush in to fix them. Allow your children to try to solve their problems themselves. Be their sounding board to bounce ideas off of and offer suggestions when really needed. Use these moments to model positive behavior. You might have to examine your own responses to stress to set a better example for your children. They learn a lot from watching and imitating how we respond to trials. Setting a positive example is an important way to teach children how to cope.
Help your child view their situation in a more beneficial light. Remind them of times they did well in a similar situation or help them reframe their problems as opportunities. Reframing is a way to look at a situation from a more positive and complete perspective. To help your child reframe a challenge, start by having him verbalize and analyze his negative thoughts. This will help him see what is really bothering him. Then follow up with alternative ways to view the situation.
Other effective coping strategies include:
- Exercise – Exercise produces endorphins which are responsible for making you feel good. It doesn’t matter what exercises children do, so it’s ok to pick something they enjoy. In fact, everyone is more likely to keep exercising if it’s something they enjoy.
- Meditation – Meditation allows you to have moments of peace and quiet. It teaches how to control thoughts. Through meditation, children can learn to push chaotic thoughts away and focus on the problem before them and how to overcome it.
- Self-care – Self-care is often considered a preventative measure against stress. Someone who takes care of themself by exercising, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep is better able to handle stresses. Children need to know how to take care of themselves to better handle difficulties.
- Asking for help – There are times when you have to ask for help. Our children shouldn’t be afraid to ask us for help nor should we be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t have to be professional help, though there is nothing wrong if it’s decided professional help is needed.
Facing the storms of life
Resiliency is something that can be nurtured in everyone at every age. If anything, the upheaval of 2020 has emphasized how important it is for us to help our families develop the quality of resiliency. We will always experience turbulent times. Let’s make sure we give our families the tools they need to weather the storms of life.
Stephanie Batty is working on finishing her degree in Marriage and Family Studies at Brigham Young University in Idaho. She has been married for almost twelve years and has two daughters ages nine and six. She enjoys writing, photography, reading, and doing things with her family. Over the years Stephanie has learned a great deal about the importance of family and children. She wishes everyone can learn more about how vital families are to society and how to keep them strong.