It is a sad fact that mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children, including depression and anxiety. Which is often a direct response to what is happening in their lives.
What is even more alarming is 70% of children have not had appropriate interventions. The emotional well-being of children is just as paramount as their physical health. Good mental health will help children build skills to develop their resilience; this will help them to cope with whatever life throws at them, making them happy and healthy adults.
So what does this term resilience mean?
There have been various definitions of resilience, the one I like the most is the “personal qualities that enable one to thrive in the face of adversity”. Most definitions view resilience as a positive adaptation to adversity.
In essence, resilience means being able to dust ourselves off and bounce back when something difficult happens in our lives. Our levels of resilience will change and develop throughout our lives, and at points, we will find that we find it harder to cope with adversity, as well as surprising ourselves when we manage a difficult situation. Resilience is a tool we implement to help us feel like ourselves again.
Why is resilience important?
When we feel in a weakened position, and it seems as if things are going from bad to worse, it is difficult to find our equilibrium, our balance in life. Now imagine being a child, it is much harder for them to understand their emotions and to verbalise their feelings.
When my daughter had her standardised testing at school, she begged not to go to school and have to complete yet another test. However, I encouraged her to go because we all have to face situations where we do not want to be in life. This taught my daughter that she could face what she was fearful and nothing terrible happened. Also, we need to remember that the results of any test do not define our worth in society, and nor should they.
So here are 5 reasons why we should build resilience in our children and how we can do it:
1. Play- ensuring children have time to play encourages creativity and teaches them how to express themselves, even if they cannot verbally. It enables us to build mechanisms for protection against experiences that can be overwhelming.
2. Connect- encourage children to connect and build relationships where they are valued and if they have disagreements guide them to resolve this as communication is also key to building resilience. Feeling connected will help children to develop compassion for themselves and others.
3. Positive Mindset- encouraging children to believe they can achieve anything (if they work hard enough for it), this helps them bounce back even after a bad event. It can also help to find that equilibrium in that stressful event.
4. Read- Encourage that rich imagination by reading them stories; this helps to develop their critical thinking skills. Having strong critical thinking skills enables children to have confidence in the decisions they make and in themselves.
5. Reflection- Encourage children to reflect on their days and to be thankful, even for little things such as ‘I am thankful my mum made me my favourite dinner’. This encourages the positive mindset and to find the beauty in each day.
“Do not indoctrinate your children. Teach them how to think for themselves, how to evaluate evidence, and how to disagree with you.” Richard Dawkins
Of course, we cannot prepare children to ensure they survive any adverse situation but learning to be more resilient can represent one of the best ways to deal with potential disasters that they can face.
Frankie lives in Mid Wales with her ten year old miniature version. She is trying to figure out if she has invisibility superpowers or that she is just generally ignored. By day, Frankie is a psychology teacher and owns a coffee shop/tapas bar with her lovely sister. She is passionate about mental health and believes we should all be able to live in a world free from stigma and judgement. She is highly anxious but has spent the last few years on her ‘pursuit of happiness’, which involves pushing herself way out of her comfort zone. She started writing during her Masters when her professor encouraged her to start writing a blog, which she found to be therapeutic and healing. She now dreams about becoming a ‘real writer’, so she can spend her days at home with her dogs living in an imaginary world with her fictional characters- well at least until it’s 3.30pm and her daughter turns the house into a whirlwind again. In the holidays, Frankie, Mini-me, and her doggies like to go travelling to the edge of the world in her 1983 bright orange Volkswagen Camper called Reggie, if you see them give them a wave.