As parents, we want what is best for our children. We want them to be happy and to grow up reaching their full academic and social-emotional potential. It is always difficult as a parent when we see our children experiencing challenges or difficulties that cause them feelings of stress, sadness, or fear. Our natural instinct is to want to rush in and to “save them” from this hardship. However, in reality we can not save our children from all the challenges they will face in life. How can we prepare them for those challenges that are an unavoidable part of life, like not making the sports team they wanted, not doing as well as expected on a test, or the loss of someone dear to them?
This is what resilience is all about — being able to bounce back from the challenges we face and to learn from them. Being resilient can help our children learn coping skills and find solutions to academic and social problems. It is a key factor in positive mental health and overall life success.
Where does resilience come from? We are not born resilient, rather it is a combination of skills and positive attributes that we develop over time based on our life experiences and our relationships. It is also important to remember that stress in and of itself is not always negative. Stress is actually necessary in our lives. It is how we respond to stress that can negatively impact our lives. The positive management of stress for common life challenges can actually contribute to sharpening our memory skills, focusing our energy towards desired goals, and actually improving our productivity and creativity.
Our high school students are busy studying for their first semester exams and our Grade 3 and Grade 6 students are preparing for EQAO evaluations. These are opportunities to help them develop healthy coping skills. Keeping an open dialogue with your child will go a long way in helping your child develop resilience. Here are some tips to help your child manage realistic pressures.
Expose them to challenges.
Maintain a positive, supportive relationship.
Challenge negative thoughts.
Take the time to really listen.
Allow your child to express their emotions and show acceptance of their feelings. Some children may need additional support in developing their vocabulary of emotions. Try not to become upset when they are upset.
Encourage responsible, independent decisions-making.
This takes lots of practice. At a young age children can be allowed to make developmentally appropriate choices and to learn from their mistakes. Model for them how you make decisions.
Help develop organization and prioritizing skills.
Don’t jump in too quickly.
Help create a personalized stress management list.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Elizabeth Paquette is Chief Psychologist/Mental Health Lead for the OCSB. She has been with the Board for 29 years, and is a registered psychologist with an expertise in school psychology.