Teaching Kids Resilience

Teaching Kids Resilience

by Dr. Clementine Msengi

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Japeth Mast

Growing up in Rwanda provided me with many experiences that encouraged
resilience. Our family lifestyle was simple. We were not surrounded by wealth or luxury. We were content with food, shelter, family, and clothing chosen for utility more than fashion. I learned early to value the needs of my family and community. I also learned to work hard to achieve my goals and that I could expect obstacles.

Based on my upbring, values, and experiences as an educator and a parent, I offer the following suggestions to parents who hope to raise resilient children. I also
welcome your insights and comments.

  1. Don’t give your kids everything they want. Children need to learn to solve their own problems and work toward goals. Do they want a new video game? Teach them to work and save for their goals.Problem solving is an important skill. Learning to problem solve collaboratively helps build resilience for thriving in school, work, and life. Working and saving money were not options for me while I was growing up. I learned responsibility  by doing chores that taught me how much effort it took to obtain what our family needed. These activities included working on our farm after school or spending the day with my father at his job.

Children certainly need to be given generous amounts of reassurance and comfort; but they should also be taught skills to deal with life challenges.

  1. Allow your children to take reasonable risks. My parents  wanted to keep
    me safe, so they instituted safety talks almost every day. But they also knew that sooner or later I would face significant obstacles in life, so I needed to learn to face fear. Resilience takes root and grows only as we overcome obstacles.

My parents allowed ageappropriate risks but also taught us the skills we needed to be successful and safe.

  1. Teach your children needed skills. Ask yourself, “What skills my child is going to need in order to thrive? What social skills will my child need? What safety and situational skills? What cultural skills that will help them navigate the world successfully?” Inventory what lies ahead for them and create an action plan for equipping them.
  2. Let your kids make mistakes. Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers. A child who believes they must always be best, first, or a winner is not equipped to live in the real world. Let your children learn that failing is not the end of the world and is a starting point for their next effort.

Children must be allowed to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. If they didn’t study, they need to be allowed to fail. It’s important to lovingly teach them that actions have consequences, both positive and negatives.

  1. Teach your kids to be problem-solvers. Help them figure out how to face their fears, confront their problems, and resolve their social issues. Teach them how to handle their problems on their own (within reason, of course) and discover possible, positive solutions.
  2. Don’t have an answer for everything. Don’t be afraid to tell your children you don’t know. Encourage them to research to find answers. It’s important for them to learn that every situation does not have a black-and-white answer, and life sometimes is uncertain.

If they express anxiety about a possible scenario, instead of providing a yes-or-no answer, encourage them to think about how they will handle the situation and the stress. Teach them to evaluate circumstances from the other person’s point of view. This teaches them to think proactively about difficult situations.

The best way to teach resilience is to model it in the way you approach life. Admit your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. View failure as a learning experience. Adapt to what may lie ahead by learning new skills. And let your kids see you as a problem solver who is not intimidated by the obstacles that will always lie ahead.

I’d love to hear your comments, experiences, and positive suggestions for other readers.
–Dr. Clem

Note:  The statements and opinions in this blog are those of Dr. Clementine Msengi. They do not represent her employer or other personal/professional affiliates.