Some people always seem to bounce back no matter what setbacks befall them, while others seem to be greatly affected by their misfortunes. Those who bounce back from adversity are described as ‘emotionally resilient’.
People who are emotionally resilient have been found to be more successful in school and work – they are also healthier, happier, they live longer and are less likely to experience depression. Andrew Shatté and Karen Reivich, authors of The Resilience Factor, say that resilient people are better able to deal with stress and adversity, and more likely to explore new opportunities. On the other hand, children with lower levels of emotional resilience have been found to be at greater risk of poor educational performance.
The good news is that children can be taught to challenge their previous thinking and learn cognitive skills that will help them develop emotional resilience.
What is emotional resilience?
Emotional resilience is the ability to cope, change and persevere when things go wrong.
A resilient person is one who is able to recover quickly after a setback, which can be as simple as struggling to construct a wooden tower block, or as profound as coming to terms with the death of a loved one. People – including young children – who are emotionally resilient employ positive and optimistic thinking patterns to deal with life’s setbacks.
Emotional resilience is not necessarily something we are born with, but children can learn the cognitive skills that support resilience. These skills include activities such as thinking, reasoning, conceiving, imagining, fantasising and constructing a self-image.
More than the genetics of intelligence, resilience is determined by our thinking style – and as we will see, thinking style is something that we can influence, even in very young children. Thus, it makes good sense to start developing emotional resilience in children at an early age. When warm, caring adults foster realistic optimism and a positive worldview, the children around them develop lifelong emotional resilience.
MindChamps’ Thinking Cap programme fosters emotional resilience in your child and empowers him/her with effective thinking skills and learning techniques. Book your seats to our upcoming complimentary workshop to find out more!
Tips for building emotional resilience in children
Here are some key ‘resilience skills’ and some suggestions for how you, as a parent, can develop these skills in your children.
1. Impulse control
Impulse control is best defined as the ability to control impulses and ‘wait’, while avoiding being over-emotional or losing control. Poor impulse control can lead to problematic behaviour such as over-spending or violent behaviour in adolescence and adulthood.
How to help your child achieve it:
- Calm your child down if s/he is about to lash out physically when upset
- Encourage him/her to delay gratification by saying, “Good things come to those who wait” and “You can’t always have everything you want!” (especially while shopping)
- In ‘the heat of the moment’, use strategies such as taking deep breaths, counting to 10…or just walking away
2. Understanding cause and effect
Understanding the notion of cause and effect is a necessary skill, as it helps to keep our impulses under control and plan future outcomes. This involves understanding where the responsibility lies in a given situation and whether it is within our control, and the fact that volitional choices can and do change the outcome of any situation.
An understanding of cause and effect is not only helpful in social and emotional circumstances – it also underpins all logical thoughts in areas such as science, mathematics and literature.
So, do take the first step to teaching your children to take responsibility for their choices and to understand that better choices create positive outcomes.
How to help your child achieve it:
- If your child wants another child’s toy, explain that simply grabbing it from another will probably just lead to a fight
- Talk children through an “I want it now” urge
How do you open up your child’s mind to other points of view and instil empathy and self-confidence in him/her? Find out more on the next page.