Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Bounce back, baby!

Remember those weighted plastic toys that you could tip in all directions but would right themselves and be ready to be knocked again?  That is about the best analogy I can think of for the word resilience.  And applying this to people, it basically means the ability to 'bounce back' no matter what happens.  It does not mean that resilient people do not experience pain, loss, defeat, tragedy and trauma, but that they have the emotional maturity and psychological strength to recover from these setbacks.  It is a characteristic we would all want our children to develop because it is the basis of good mental health.

What can we do as parents, remembering that we are engaged in a long process that extends from babyhood to late adolescence (and beyond!)?
  • ensure good attachment by meeting the baby's needs for food, warmth, comfort and nurture promptly so the baby learns it can rely on you to meet its primary needs;
  • introduce the baby into the wider world by positive interactions with siblings, grandparents, extended family and friends;
  • as the child grows start to incorporate awareness of their own feelings, helping to name them and to find ways of experiencing them and then extending this to recognising feelings in other people;
  • teach children that anger, frustration, jealousy are part of life and that they can be experienced without aggression and tantrums;
  • teach children to negotiate with you and with each other;
  • allow children to build a positive view of themselves by breaking tasks into small parts and helping them recognise their achievements as they master each part;
  • allow children to experience difficulties and frustrations and helping them to use their previous experience and to develop new skills to overcome problems;
  • encourage children to be positive and optimistic, even when they experience set backs
  • maintain honest and open lines of communication with children, listening as well as speaking, so they know that they can raise anything with us;
  • support and encourage children and adolescents in making their own decisions.
What doesn't help is to:
  • set unrealistic goals for children to achieve;
  • never let them experience disappointment and difficulties;
  • protect and shield them from the difficulties of life: not every one can win a prize nor can we have everything we might want;
  • being rigid and inflexible in your expectations and communications.
The development of good mental health in children and young people is as important as their physical health and their intellectual development since we all want our babies to grow up into well rounded, optimistic adults who enjoy life and can tackle its challenges with a positive attitude and bounce back from the blows that life can bring.

There are many guides about developing resilience on the net and in parenting and childcare manuals.
Some easily accessible links are:
Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers
KidsMatter  It is worth exploring many of the links given within this site.
A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children I like the I HAVE I AM I CAN approach
Bonsai Parents Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids fame has come up with a new term to replace 'helicopter parenting'.

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