It's getting harder and harder these days to raise children who can overcome challenges on their own. Technology -- and let's face it -- our overparenting ways have made raising a resilient child, one who can pick himself up when he falls and will not just give up and throw in the towel, trickier. After all, resilience means our kids need mental strength. How do we instill it?
1. Teach your child how to handle his feelings. "A child who can say, 'I'm feeling anxious, and that anxiety makes me want to avoid scary things' will be better equipped to face his fears. He'll also have a better understanding of his emotions and have more confidence in his ability to handle discomfort," wrote psychotherapist Amy Lorin, author of the book 13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don't Do.
a. Help identify your child's feelings. Parenting-relationship counselor Michele Santos-Alignay suggests doing a walkthrough of different situations with your child and assist him in labeling emotions. Setting up a mood meter at home can help.
b. Acknowledge your child's feelings. Don't just dismiss it by telling him to stop crying. Start with "I understand you're feeling upset..." and then help him find ways to make himself feel better.
c. Always pause before acting on YOUR emotions. Your kids will learn from you how to handle emotions. Count one to 10 (or 20) or remove yourself from the situation before doing or saying something you might regret.
2. Teach your child to stop negative thinking. Worrying, self-doubt, and harsh criticism do not help. Sports psychologist and mom of two Sara Robinson suggests reframing or "flipping the coin," -- look at the situation from a different perspective. Guide them in thinking realistic thoughts to help strengthen their optimism, and find opportunities, solutions, and trust in their abilities.
a. Make a habit of pointing out the positive side of situations and try to always focus on it, advises licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Grace Evangelista.
b. Talk about what you're grateful for, even the smallest things. Having things to be thankful for can serve as a reminder for children that there still exists some good in this world.
c. Put things in perspective for your kids. A small event can be a big deal to young kids as their world is still small, and real-world events may feel huge to a child. Remember to be honest.
3. Teach your child to take positive action. Family therapist Claire Dorotik-Nana advised encouraging kids to try new things, take risks, and make mistakes. Neuroscientist Dr. Sarah McKay explains that parents should let their children embrace failures to help them understand that these are part of the learning process. Mistakes and failures open up moments that can be used to learn problem-solving skills, impulse control, and self-discipline skills. Teach -- don't just tell -- them how to fix things and find solutions.
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a. Giving your child responsibility is the first step to teach him independence. Assign age-appropriate chores and give consequences for failing to do responsibilities. However, help your child to also find solutions that would prevent that from happening again.
b. Instill in your child a strong moral compass. The key is to implement rules that strengthen your family values consistently. Let your child understand that seeking approval from other people isn't important. He should be confident enough to make his own decisions even when his peers are jumping on the bandwagon.
c. Let your child know that he can do better. Having a growth mindset is crucial in thinking he can do some things, even little things, which can make a difference in the outcome. That way, he'll always choose to persevere rather than give up.
Remember: Mental strength is not developed overnight. You need to be consistent in teaching your kids skills that can shape their thoughts, actions, and words. Being a role model of mental strength helps a lot. Children learn more from what they see than what you tell them.