The ups and downs of life can be rough for both children and parents alike, especially during the current circumstances we’re faced with globally on account of the pandemic and its speculated aftermath. Life and parenting, in general, can feel extra scary right now as the future appears less certain with many possibilities at hand. This alone is enough for anyone to feel lost and in survival mode.
During times of hardship, it can feel like you have two options: Sink or swim -or- Survive and thrive, or fall into pieces.
These are times when resilience, or our ability to make it through any trial and come out better in the long-run, will play a major factor in the overall outcomes of not only our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing, but the mental, emotional, and behavioral development of our children as well.
Fortunately, science has uncovered five protective factors that parents can provide for their children in order for them to develop resilience against any behavioral or mental health issues while forming healthy coping mechanisms and relationships.
As we all grow through life and face its many challenges, setbacks, lessons, and sometimes traumas, the way that we come out afterward largely depends on our individual levels of resilience, according to research.
The more resilient children are, the easier they will be able to manage the toughest of hurdles that life throws their way. It’s almost like having a form of immunity against childhood trauma and hardship. This doesn’t mean that life is not difficult for those with higher levels of resiliency, merely that those who are more resilient are better equipped to overcome their struggles.
The same can be applied to adults as it relates to the ability to function day-to-day. Whether you feel like you’re functioning as well as you can right now or not, modeling positive traits of resilience will greatly benefit children by equipping them with the skills needed to develop their own. Parental resilience is one of the five protective factors parents can provide their children.
How Parents Can Model Resilience for Their Children
As parents, it can sometimes be said that children should do as we say, and not as we do, but the truth of the matter is that children learn and absorb much more from our actions than they do from our words. Because of this, it’s essential for parents to model positive resilience traits for their children, despite any urges to yell, cry, melt-down, or throw our own versions of temper tantrums at times.
While having a close, supportive relationship with at least one parent is incredibly beneficial for helping children develop resilience, so are the resiliency traits modeled by their parents.
Take a Pause
There may be times of stress or chaos that can be overwhelming and cause a person to want to express all they are feeling internally to the external environment. While this is completely natural and understandable, and it is essential to express everything going on inside, doing so in front of children is not always the most beneficial course of action. It’s important to be aware of how you experience challenges in their eyes.
When feeling overwhelmed it’s important to take a pause, breathe, become present in the moment by observing what is going on inside, and move forward with caution. Exploding from anger or expressing high levels of stress and fear to children can cause their own feelings of stress and fear to escalate.
By modeling self-control and problem-solving skills, as well as good self-care and stress management, kids will quickly adapt the same behavioral traits that will be used to help them with any obstacles they face moving forward.
Anything that is mentally grounding and brings you into the present can help you to take a pause before you respond to anything stressful or fearful in front of your kids. Taking a few deep breaths, counting down from ten, doing 5 minutes of elevated physical activity, meditating, or making observations about everything in your external environment and internal world are some ways to take a pause and become grounded. This will help prevent your anger or fear from spiking.
Once you are in a space that is private from your children or family, it is important to express what you’re feeling on the inside. This may include talking to a therapist, a trusted friend, engaging in a hobby or sport, journaling, etc.
When children see that their parents are brave and strong, they will feel more supported and secure—safe enough to tackle their own personal struggles and challenges.
Retrain Your Brain
Let’s face it, no parent is perfect, and we all have triggers and buttons that cause us to react with fear or anger more than normal. One method for shifting this behavior is to retrain one’s thinking and perceptions. By challenging negative thought patterns and mental blocks, you’ll be able to navigate life’s challenges while modeling resilience to your children with greater ease.
There are a variety of mental traps or negative thought patterns that can influence the way parents act and react in times of stress or fear. Some examples of areas where parents may struggle include:
- Feeling like all stress is bad
- Asking for or accepting help
- Making new connections
- Challenging mental traps or negative thought patterns
- Developing and nurturing self-love and positive self-esteem
- Accepting change and uncertainty as certain aspects of life
- Engaging in good self-care
- Setting personal goals and working toward reaching them
Model a Healthy Mindset Surrounding Stress
A bit of stress and anxiety is normal, and healthy for us, as it motivates us to do what it takes to reach our goals, to stay safe, and to survive. Sometimes when we’re stressed it can seem like all stress is bad or to be avoided, but it’s important to teach kids the difference between unhealthy and healthy stress. Positive stress is the type of stress we feel that motivates us to study extra hard for an exam, or push forward at work to meet a deadline, get a promotion, or a raise. Showing kids that it’s good to have healthy stress and how to manage it is a wonderful way to start modeling resilience to them.
Engage with the Community
As parents, we want to be strong for our children and show them that we have bravery and strength. However, in doing so, this can cause us to feel like failures if we ever need help from time to time. We all need help in one form or another from time to time, and it’s a sign of strength to admit when we need help and seek the right support. By engaging with the community, and forming connections with those around you, you can gain access to a mutually beneficial network of people who help one another out in times of need and connect your family with the right resources when you need them.
Consider Individual or Family Therapy
We can all fall victim to self-defeating, negative thought patterns that hold us in a mental prison and prevent us from moving forward or doing what we need to do to get through rough times. Individual or family therapy can be a wonderful way to challenge these negative thought patterns and form new, healthier thoughts that support positive self-esteem. It can also help one to develop a healthier take on life by accepting that there will be challenges, but it’s what we do with them and how we learn that matters most.
A therapist can also work with you to develop goals and break them down into smaller step-by-step goals that you can work toward meeting as it relates to anything important to you in your life, as well as engaging in good self-care and coping skills.
Caring Professional Support
Should your family, children, or teens require a bit of extra support, we are here for you. The services provided by Idaho Youth Ranch are designed to help you and your children develop greater resilience so that you can overcome any challenge in life. We provide family and teen therapy for at-risk youth and families in individual, group, and equine therapy settings.
If you or a loved one is struggling, we want to help. Give us a call today to learn more.