Our children have a variety of feelings and thoughts as they begin the new school year. As parents, we want our children to feel confident and excited for school, after-school activities, and their social interactions. Of course, all of these activities present challenges. That is why it is imperative that we help our children build resiliency so they are better equipped to overcome hardships and attain academic and social success.
Resiliency is a learned behavior, meaning it is something kids learn from observing it and practicing it. The best environment for children to do so is at home with their parents and the attendant support system.
Here are some tips on how best to prepare your children for success and to become more resilient:
• Core Competencies: Resiliency starts with your child identifying their core competencies or traits. Start by asking them what qualities they think they are strongest in or proudest of during the week. If they are stumped, ask them what compliments or positive thoughts we hear others say about us. Identifying five natural strengths is important starting at a young age.
• Self-Talk: Try to strengthen your child’s sense of self and increase positive, feel-good, thoughts. We are building lego blocks of positive feelings and comments about ourselves commonly referred to as “self-talk.” As children learn to remind themselves of how they can use their inner tools to solve problems, they feel a sense of accomplishment they created on their own.
For example, a child who is creative and artistic is struggling to connect socially on the playground. Reminding themselves they can create a new game to play together or engage friends to act out a movie they all know can help bridge a connection with a peer. Such use of an innate skill to tackle a new problem helps build resilience and confidence.
• Calming Techniques: As stressors occur, the body naturally releases the neurotransmitter Norepinephrine, which activates the fight/flight/freeze options as a defense. Using calming techniques like breathing exercises or Progressive Muscle Relaxation are quick ways to settle the body down so the mind will follow. When a child or teen feels more confident in their ability to tap into their strengths, they will respond with resilience instead of shutting down.
• Memory Retrieval: When confronted with a challenging situation, encourage your child to recall similar past experiences they have overcome. This is something that parents themselves do in similar situations.
What is imperative is that your child looks back on challenging times and reframe them as positive experiences to build resiliency and self-esteem. In order to create more resiliency in your child, we want them to learn to challenge their past feelings and thoughts. For example, if your child is worried about new peers this fall, remind them how they have succeeded in similar situations in the past.
This year will come with challenges that accompany every new school year. Showing your child they have skills within themselves to problem solve is essential. Your child can learn from past problems and remind themselves they have gotten through each of them. Allowing your child to learn and build the lego blocks of personal traits is a big step in them finding their resilience and enjoying success in their academic and social pursuits.
Jessica Cortez, LMSW, is a child therapist and the owner of Bloomfield Child and Family Counseling (BloomfieldFamilies.com), which has offices in Troy and West Bloomfield. She is a member of Impact100 Oakland County, which raises and distributes grants to local nonprofits. Her children’s book, The Thinking Traps, can be purchased on Amazon.