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One of the most common questions I am asked when working with teams on one of our Developing Emotional Resilience through Change workshops is how to we apply this material in building more resilience in our children.
I am often questioned about how to lead the emerging generation and build their resilience to the challenges that they will inevitability face on their life’s journey.
I often hear my clients express fears that their children (as well as teenagers and young adults) appear to lack some inherent sense of internal strength, character and resilience that previous generations possessed. In a real sense, many wonder if we have raised children who are just too soft and ill equipped to face life challenges.
The feedback is consistent and the stories are in many cases the same: a young person in a position, course, relationship or organisation for whom everything is going along fine. And then something happens. It doesn’t need to be much (in fact, it often isn’t), and their whole life comes down like a pack of cards. Words are spoken, decisions are made and courses of action taken that seem completely out of the blue and often like an over-reaction. Next thing you know it, they have quit, given up, swapped paths or simply disappeared without a by-your-leave.
If you have experienced a chain of events similar to the one described above, you are not alone. To understand why this younger generation so often seems to lack resilience, it is critical to gain an understanding of the society that has shaped them.
With the first of them born in the early 1980’s (a decade which would become known as the Decade of the Child), Gen Y entered an era where parents were accusingly asked `have you hugged your child today?’ The pressure on parents to raise children with great self-esteem, a high degree of confidence and a developed sense of entitlement resulted in a group of children who were just what their parents hoped they would be: brash, bold and self-assured.
However, the flipside of the parenting agenda of the 1980’s was that this generation tended to hear nothing but praise, affirmation and positive reinforcement. Every child was told how special, unique, wonderful and brilliant they were regardless of performance or effort. The result? A largely pampered generation who were, in many cases, sheltered from experiences of hardship, criticism, failure and disappointment.
Added to all this, Gen Y have grown up in an era marked by its prosperity, low unemployment and ever increasing convenience. Is it any wonder then that when the going gets tough, Gen Y get going… literally. In a very real sense, they have never learned the skills or needed to develop the character to persist despite setback, failure,
Ever wonder what some people can handle even the most difficult of circumstances in life without missing a beat, while others seem to crumble at the slightest disappointment or obstacle?
The answer is resilience.
Lessons Learnt Consulting defines resilience is the ability to bounce forward through life’s challenges in healthy and constructive ways. A resilient person is not just born with characteristics than enable them to cope and deal with adversity. Rather resilience is affected by the quality of interactions within the family, school, and other social environments.
How we build this resilience in our children is a critical challenge to our parenting roles and as one client said to me that creating in her children is in her opinion the only worthy legacy a parent can leave. So, how do we create this resilience?
Benefits of resilience
Skills in resilience is critical because through them children fare well in life. Research shows children with good resilience perform better at school and are less likely to take part risky behaviour, particularly as they enter the teenage years.
Learning to become successful is one of the most important aspects of building resilience.
“Success is contagious and if you have a feeling you can be successful in one avenue of your life then the likelihood of that ricocheting into other areas of your life is high.”
Resilience is the strongest antidote we know of for self-harm, depression and drug abuse and it’s built on our sense of belonging
10 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR CHILDREN RESILIENT
1. Good relationships are vital
When children, especially boys feel liked and respected, they’ll respond in a really positive way.
As a parent or caregiver, show that you respect and care for them, that you want them to do well, and you really like them.
This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with your kids to have good relationships. In fact, you can agree to disagree if need be. But the message is that if kids feel confident enough to express themselves to their parents, they also feel more empowered to be honest with their friends. In fact, for kids (and adults) of any age, one of the most important skills to build happy, loving relationships is good communication. For a first step, try listening to one another with an open heart, suspending judgment, if only for a moment.
Characteristics of a good relationship
- Giving respect
- Showing patience
- Having a sense of humour
- Actively listening to them
- Knowing who they are, who their friends are, and what they like and dislike
- Seeing things from their perspective
2. Have some “unorganised” family time
We live in a world that suffers from attention deficit disorder. We rush children from activity to activity, from lesson to lesson and from one organised event to another. Then we wonder why, when there is a lull that they say” I’m bored”. Be a counter-revolutionary. Find some time each week just to be at home without anything structured happening.
3. Rediscover some family rituals
It doesn’t matter whether it is the family walk after dinner, the Sunday roast, the Friday night pizza or the Saturday morning clean up; rituals are highly protective. The best rituals often cost nothing. These are the activities you hope that later on your children will reminisce and say “Mum always made sure we did.” or Dad always made sure we did.”
4. Spontaneity and curiosity
Spontaneity and curiosity are the building blocks of good mental health. You cannot tell someone how to have better mental health and you can’t give it to them by getting them to read a book.
So the really hard message here is that if you want to raise your children to have mentally healthy lives you are going to have to have a good time yourself. If you want your children to succeed you need to show them that success is worth having.
5. Love kids for their differences
When families’ function well people are allowed to be different and to be loved for those differences.
We all know that children take on different roles. A father of three said “it’s as if they have a planning meeting once a year and say ‘you be the good kid, I’ll be the sick kid and the other one can be the trouble-maker’! And then just when you think you’ve got it figured out they change roles again”
Having children who are strongly individual and who have a sense of who they are is a sign of good parenting. The problem may, of course be that they will then express their independent spirit in ways that you don’t like. The ideal is someone who has their own independent nature but is comfortable enough with themselves to allow inter-dependence.
6. Make it is clear who is in charge
Families do not work well as democracies. In fact they seem to work best as benevolent dictatorships in which the parent or parents consult a lot with their children but at the end of the day, the parent has the final say.
Some parents fear that if they take charge they will lose the friendship of their children, but often the reverse is true.
Consistency is the ideal. Having parents’ who agree on rules and standards and who convey the same sorts of messages and who value compassion over coercion, clearly have the best outcome in terms of children’s well being. It is also important that parents not be open to manipulation; rather they work together as a team.
Sometimes parents have different value systems or can’t come to a consistent way to handle particular areas. In these situations, a second possibility is to for one parent to take charge of a particular area.
8. Teach the skills of Self-esteem
Families that work well seem to praise one another a lot. Compliments are made, positive efforts are commented on. Optimism is in the air. Even in these families, teenagers still shrug and say, “yeah Mum” or “yeah Dad” whenever a compliment is made.
Teaching the skills of self-praise is useful. One way of doing this to ask questions about any achievement or accomplishments. Asking questions like “how did you do that?” “How come you did so well at that test?” and “have you been doing homework behind my back?”
9. Know how to Argue
Families that work well know how to argue. It seems strange to say this because we all have the sense those families that work well, don’t have conflicts.
The family is really where we learn to resolve disputes fairly. The way that parents teach children to resolve differences of opinion with their brothers and sisters provides the basis for sharing, negotiating and problem solving in the world beyond the family. While differences of opinion should be allowed to be expressed, children also need to learn that they will not be able to win at all costs.
Part of arguing is choosing battles wisely. A technique to use is to children behaviour into three categories: “green light” behaviours, which are positive and should be encouraged; “yellow light” behaviours, which are the annoying but not completely unacceptable things children do; and “red light” behaviours which are unacceptable because they are either dangerous or they disobey a key family rule. Using humour and a gentle touch, positive behaviours can be encouraged and negative behaviours eliminated.
10. Parents are reliably unpredictable
With young children it is important to provide consistency and predictability. This allows them to feel secure.
As they get older it is important to have structure and consistency but it is also useful to act in ways that your children wouldn’t expect. This keeps them interested in learning from you or least wondering what you are up to
Dennis J. Hoiberg
Lessons Learnt Consulting Pty Ltd
1300 365 119