Anisa Lewis of Positive Parenting and Coaching, draws on 20+ years in education – and 14 as a parent herself – as she guides us through practical ways to help boost our family’s resilience while supporting their mental health.
Parenting has evolved over the years. Yes, loving, feeding, clothing and providing shelter for our children is still important - but now it's become paramount to support their mental health and build resilience so they can face their everyday trials and tribulations as well.
Our priority as parents right now is to help our children to feel safe, to answer their questions truthfully (with age-appropriate answers) and to build their resilience, which then in turn helps to develop a stronger child mentally overall.
Mental health and building resilience need to be viewed as a daily nurturing practice, allowing each child (and parent) to arrive in their own time rather than facing a sprint to the finish line.
Resilience is like a superfood for your character, building strength and allowing children and adults to cope better with whatever they run into on their path of life. And building resilience becomes even more important as our children become more aware of world events and global crises.
How can I develop and raise a resilient child while also supporting their mental health?
Be a role model for the skills and behaviour you want your children to have – You can use your own ‘difficult moments’ to help your child learn to navigate these feelings. Traffic is making you run late, you burn dinner, images on the news have upset you... all of these are ‘teachable’ moments. Take a deep breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth, and explain why you are doing this. To remain calm, try to take charge of your emotions and think of how you want to react.
We can’t always control what's going on around us and where our thoughts go, but how we react and what we focus on IS within our control. If you see an upsetting situation - perhaps related to a world event - you may not be able to stop it, but you could still take some positive actions. Maybe consider donating items to a related cause, or taking part in organised fundraising events. This is what you CAN achieve!
Encourage your child(ren) to solve their own problems – If you're always jumping in to ‘fix’ things for your kids, then how are they going to learn to deal with obstacles that materialise when you're not there? We must allow them the opportunities to negotiate difficult situations.
Ideas to help include:
- Create a ‘how to solve problems’ check-list with them. Here's a handy guide for you and your child to work through:
o What is the problem/issue?
o What would they like the outcome to be if it was all sorted?
o Brainstorm lots of ideas together, on different ways to solve the problem. No idea is too big or too small.
o It’s great to put the issue into perspective. Is this going to matter just for today? Or tomorrow? Perhaps next month? or even next year? From this, you can decide what action needs to be taken.
o Your child then decides what they want to do to solve this problem from the ideas shared.
- Set up a 'coping box' for when everything gets too much. This might have fidget toys, colouring materials, reminders about breathing, a toy or a book. Discuss with your son or daughter what they would like to put in to help them to calm down.
Help them to develop and set their own boundaries – Children don’t like to be controlled any more than we do. What can you allow them to do independently (that perhaps is different to the way you would tackle something) allowing them to set their own boundaries and learn to develop? It can start with something as simple as loading the dishwasher.
Help them to identify their emotions and how to have an appropriate response to them – emotions are abstract concepts. Children need to have emotions named so they can start to be conceptualised and understood. Together with your child, help identify what they're feeling in a range of different situations so they can begin to work out what an emotion is and what might be appropriate reaction to this feeling. The theory is that behind every behaviour is an emotion, so we need to identify, label them and help children to work through them in an appropriate manner. This way, when faced with something similar in the future, they'll know how to respond.
Daily action, practice and patience are what we need to support our family’s mental health and to nurture a resilient culture within our homes. We need to work on developing our resilience — which goes for parents, too. And this comes through trial, error and repeating until success is found. But to reach success we must start with trying.
Here’s to us building our own resilient families, one step at a time.