If there is one guarantee in life, it is that we are going to deal with stress and uncertainty. And if we want our children to be able to face their challenges with grace and determination, then we must equip them with the tools to develop resilience.
Resilience is defined as the ability to recover from tough times quickly and quite often, even stronger than before. And the best part is that resilience is not a fixed part of our personality. It’s a muscle that we can help our children build over time.
So if your child is going through a stressful time in their life, here are five ways to help them to cope:
1) Implement a daily routine
Pediatricians often talk to parents about the importance of bedtime routines for children. Not only do these routines help kids go to sleep, but routines in general serve as anchors of stability in a child’s life. In fact, routines help to reduce stress for a child. So if you have a child going through a difficult situation, maintain your daily family routines.
2) Breathe it out:
There’s a reason why people often tell you to ‘take a deep breath’ when you are upset or nervous. Taking deep breaths help to send oxygen to our brains, thereby calming our minds.
A great way to teach this to children is to use the ‘balloon breathing’ technique. Ask them to visualize a balloon in their belly. When they take a deep breath in, the balloon expands. And as they breathe out, the balloon deflates. You could also ask them to imagine that they are exhaling out their favorite color as if to exhale good vibes into the world.
Not only does deep breathing help to bring calm into any situation, it is a tool that children can take with them anywhere.
3) Help them to describe their feelings:
One of my favorite activities for kids comes from the book ‘Sitting Still Like A Frog’ by Eline Snel. In it, Snel describes an exercise called the ‘personal weather report’.
This is a great way for parents to spend time with their children daily to hold space for their feelings.
“What’s the weather like inside you? Do you feel relaxed and sunny inside? Or does it feel rainy and overcast? Is there a storm raging perhaps?” writes Snel.
By helping children to describe their feelings and acknowledge them, they learn that their feelings, like the weather, change every day. When they learn to lean into an emotion, but not identify with it, they can overcome it.
4) Get out into nature:
Whenever I get out into nature, I am brought back into the present moment. Being in nature is an opportunity to explain to children how they are a part of something larger than themselves. It shows them how they belong in the grand rhythm of life.
Showing them how a tree continues to grow through the sun and rain teaches them that they too can persevere through good times and bad.
5) Let them know that they matter:
When children have experienced traumatic events, research has shown that a relationship with a consistent and nurturing adult can buffer the effects of trauma on a child’s brain.
Being a reliable presence in a child’s life shows them that they matter to you. It shows them that they are seen, heard and cared for. And sometimes just letting them know how much they matter to you makes all the difference.
As Jon Kabat-Zinn, the great teacher of mindfulness said, “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” And teaching children how to navigate the waves of life not only nurtures resilient kids, it helps them to develop into adults that thrive.
I hope this helps you on your path toward finding bliss.
– Dr. Smita