The period leading up to the teenage years is a time of big changes for kids. Helping your child develop resilience in the pre-teen years will make them feel confident and capable of dealing with teenage challenges – and improve their ability to learn and pay attention in school. Here are some tips to help encourage resilience in your pre-teen.
What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to cope with change and challenges – to ‘bounce back’ and recover when things go wrong. Ups and downs, change and challenges are a normal part of life and everyone goes through periods of feeling stressed, angry or unhappy. But if kids are stressed for long periods of time, stress hormones (particularly cortisol) can build up in their brain and interfere with their ability to learn and pay attention in school. Using healthy coping skills to deal with stress can help your child to pay attention, use higher level thinking skills and learn new facts and ideas.
Resilience involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned over time. Here are some tips for encouraging resilience in your child.
Encourage your child to develop a wide social circle of friends through school and extra-curricular activities. Help your child develop and maintain strong connections with yourself and other family members who they can talk to and go to for advice.
By encouraging strong relationships and good communication, your child will have the opportunity to talk about important issues affecting them and feel supported when they experience life’s inevitable disappointments and hurts. Connecting with people provides social support and strengthens resilience.
Self-respect is very important to building resilience. When your child believes in themselves, they will have the confidence to handle challenges and disappointments when they occur. Encourage your child to learn to trust themselves to solve problems and make good decisions. Talk to your child about when they have successfully handled difficult situations in the past – and let them know that previous challenges can help you build strength to handle difficult situations in the future.
Resilience is linked to character traits such as kindness, honesty and empathy. Doing things to help others or ‘make a difference’ can help build children’s sense of worth and strengthen their resilience. Talk to your child about the importance of being kind to other people and encourage them to get involved in age-appropriate volunteering (such as Clean Up Australia Day).
Change is part of life
Change can often be scary for children and teens. Help your child understand that change is part of life, and that changes can be positive. Talk about how people grow and learn new things through change. Encourage your child to think about how they have already changed and grown so much since they started school. Try to give your child extra attention and patience if they are feeling anxious about changes in their life – and let them know that though some things will change, they can always rely on your love and support.
Onwards and upwards
When your child experiences a difficult situation in their lives, try to talk to them about it and give them your encouragement and support. Let them know everyone goes through troubles and that bad times don’t last forever. Talk to your child about situations in your own life when you have gone through a hard time or succeeded despite an initial setback.
Encourage your child to think about ways they can make themselves feel better when something upsetting happens – like doing a fun activity, talking with a friend or going for a walk. Help your child to see the good things in life (even in times of stress) and be optimistic about the future. Encouraging your child to develop a positive attitude will help strengthen their resilience.
Encourage your child to eat properly, exercise and get enough sleep – and make sure they have ‘down-time’ to just relax have fun. Making sure your child is healthy and has time for fun will help them stay balanced and better able to deal with stressful times.