As parents, our most important role is to keep our children safe. That can mean keeping them buckled up in the car, teaching them to swim, or checking under the bed for the sock monster every night.
We also want to protect them from sadness, disappointment and failure, because we want them to be happy. But research tells us our best strategy is to let children face the normal ups and downs of the classroom, the playground and at home, without always jumping in to save them.
There are lots of ways we can help our children build resilience – the ability to bounce back from conflict and failure and to learn from the experience.
The Beyond Blue Support Service recommends parents let children take on personal challenges that build their confidence. Their advice is to make sure they’re ‘healthy risks’ and appropriate for their age and maturity. A ‘healthy risk’ might be letting kids aged six to 12 walk home from school alone or with a sibling.
It’s also important to allow children to develop their own ways of dealing with difficult situations. If they’re struggling, it might help to talk it through with them, but make sure the solution is their own.
Helping your child build resilience day to day prepares them for dealing with the bigger issues they may face, such as family stress or the death of a grandparent.
So what else can we do to make sure our children cope with life’s setbacks?
- Let your child know it’s OK to feel bad sometimes. Encourage them to talk about it but don’t dwell on it or try to fix it.
- Give more attention to the good experiences your child has than their day’s low points. Children are naturally inclined to feel happy. Help your child to see the funny side of things going wrong.
- Children need to practise not always getting their way. Allow them to feel a little frustrated and to vent. But not for long!
For more tips about getting support to cope with the stresses of family life, join our Talking Families Facebook community.