We’ve heard this more recently after the events of the last few years; “Children are resilient, they’ll surprise you and they’ll be OK.” We’ve hoped it. We’ve lived it. And sometimes Children ARE resilient, but how can we nurture this in our kids, so that if they aren’t naturally so, they learn to adopt those resilient behaviours? How can we guide and understand them better to make it easier for them to work through the problems that they will encounter through life?
This is a guest post from author Lizzy Shortall, who has written Joy’s Playground to help 4 to 8 year old’s build a toolset that will assist them in developing that resilience from an early age. Lizzy lost her brother through suicide because of mental health issues, and is a former social worker. She is certified to teach Mindfulness for Wellbeing in Schools from the Irish Mindfulness Academy too.
by Lizzy Shortall
Joy is playing in the playground with a frog (Jumpit) and Tortoise (Tortie).
While playing, other friends join them who aren’t having a great day.
The book then shows friends working together to overcome the challenges faced that day through gratitude, mindfulness and self-belief.
It is a lovely way to introduce some of the really important concepts in building resilience in kids, so that when we say children are resilient we are working with them to help achieve it. It isn’t just a vain hope, but a reality that we are helping to nurture. Find more on Lizzy on her website:
What is resilience?
We hear the word resilience frequently but what does it really mean?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back well or to recover from something difficult.
We are all more aware than ever of the need for building resilience for children.
How and why do we build resilience?
We can do this by teaching children coping tools or skills.
These skills are wide and varied. You will know or discover which ones a child may need, enjoy, or engage with most. I believe it is important to build these skills so when a child comes upon a difficult or challenging situation they have the tools to cope and therefore will be able to bounce back well.
In my work as a Resilience Trainer, I focus on the following five categories. I will include one example for each area. My children’s book Joy’s Playground (outlined below) also introduces children to coping tools.
Mindfulness for wellbeing
This is paying attention, on purpose in a moment. Children are naturally very mindful. Although with so much activity and choice available to them these days, children can become very busy, overwhelmed and even anxious. Meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness which is a wonderful tool. But it can be difficult to engage small children in meditation and is more helpful for slightly older children. There are other lovely ways to help a child to come into the moment through informal mindfulness and or breathing techniques. A favourite of mine (that I use myself) is simply becoming aware of our senses.
5 senses practice.
Simply ask the child wherever you are, at home, in the car or on a walk to tell you or to quietly become aware of:
- What do you see?
- What do you hear?
- What do you taste?
- What do you smell?
- What do you feel? (physically)
This is a lovely way to be present in the moment by paying attention and on purpose.
Gratitude is simply the practice of being thankful.
The benefits are improved mood, higher levels of happiness and emotional wellbeing. Better choices, improved relationships, and of course greater resilience.
Gratitude daily practice: What were the three best things about your day?
A simple way to introduce children to practicing gratitude is to ask them to tell you or to write down the three best things about their day. You can incorporate this into the daily routine for a classroom, the whole family at dinner time or even at bedtime. It is a lovely positive conversation to have at any time of day.
When teaching children resilience tools. A can-do attitude goes a long way. Pointing out what a child is good at will increase their sense of self-belief and pride. Then asking them to picture or visualise themselves doing something that they may be apprehensive about, can be very effective. For example, if your child does not like a certain subject at school, you can point out the subjects they do like and how good they are at them and mention that it is ok to not be great at everything. Remind them once they give it a go, then all will be well, and they can do the hard thing.
Mindset and mantras
You can ask children to picture themselves doing the hard thing and feeling ok while doing it and teach children positive affirmations to go with the situation such as:I can do this, I can try my best, all will be well or no matter what happens everything will be ok.
This is a wonderful tool to teach children from a young age. As a parent, educator or carer setting the example is important, after all children are just as likely, or even more inclined, to do what we do more than what we say.
Reminding children to make healthy choices, to take their time or have a break or relaxation time is important in today’s busy world. There are so many ways to do this, for example, through giving themselves a little hand massage to encouraging healthy eating. Teaching children to know their boundaries and that it is ok to be themselves strongly and happily is a positive form of self-care. Something I love to do with my own children is to have planned relaxation time.
Creating a quiet space / relaxing time.
Create a place where a child can be quiet, rest, snuggle an animal, play relaxing music, pop some cucumber on the eyes or read a book. One of my children loves to wrap herself up in a blanket ‘cocoon’. Children are very creative and come up with great ideas. They will be more likely to be able to communicate what they need, want or how they are feeling once they get a chance to recharge and rest.
Accepting how we feel is one of the quickest and easiest ways to move through it and forward in our day and lives. However, there can be numerous pressures and expectation on children to not be grumpy, to stop crying, to be in good form or to enjoy what the group are doing.
Acknowledging how we are in a moment is the quickest way to acceptance. We can teach children it is ok to feel their feelings. If we can just sit or be present with them while they feel their feelings and encourage them to have compassion for themselves while the big feeling passes, it will pass more smoothly. We can say, ‘It’s ok, I can see you are sad, angry, upset or frustrated right now. I’m here with you, it is going to be ok, you are going to be ok.’
This will lead to happier and healthier children and homes. We can teach them ‘It’s ok to be you, you are great.’ Affording ourselves this self-compassion as an adult is wonderful for us and the children we care for too.
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