Learning to pass on the skills of resilience

Q  I am interested in learning ways to teach my seven-year-old daughter some resilience skills. She seems to become emotionally overwhelmed every time she is presented with a challenging situation or when she ‘loses’ in a game with us at home or at school. Sometimes she gives up trying because her emotions take over. I really want to teach her that it is okay not to be the best at everything, and also not to give up on something just because it feels too hard. Where do I start?

A The ability to cope with life’s challenges depends on exactly what you are suggesting: resilience. Resilience skills allow us to cope with adversity. Each challenge is an opportunity for growth and change, and some people find embracing and overcoming challenges much easier than others do.

Childhood provides many teaching opportunities for resilience, and fortunately, resilience skills can be learned. There was a time when parenting focused on letting our children ‘succeed’ and ‘win’ at everything. Although this may initially appear to be building a child’s self esteem, it can also have the opposite effect when a child is presented with a challenging situation. Also, ‘fake winning’ or ‘succeeding’ does not teach a child coping skills that are valuable throughout life.

Here are some ideas to support your daughter’s resilience:

  • Emotion Coaching. Negative and overwhelming emotions are fine but at the same time, some emotional reactions can be unhelpful, such as excessive crying, having a tantrum, self-blaming and anger. When your daughter is becoming overwhelmed, teach her to name her emotion and provide empathy and understanding. For example, “I can see you are sad because you are finding it hard to finish the puzzle. What can we do about this?” By helping her to connect with her emotional experience, you are providing an opportunity for problem solving as well. Problem solving could be task-related or emotion-related: “Would you like some help with the puzzle?” or “What can you do to feel better? Would you like to go outside and jump on the trampoline?” Notice my choice of word ‘you’ rather than ‘I’. This is deliberate as this encourages your daughter to think for herself. Of course, you don’t have to do this every time, but consider this as another learning opportunity while still offering plenty of cuddles.

  By practising emotion coaching regularly, you are role modelling and at the same time, validating your daughter’s emotions, not     dismissing them. Sometimes, parents may say “stop crying” or “it’s not that bad, you’ll get over it”, but these types of                statements are unhelpful as they reinforce the idea that emotions are bad, or that what they are feeling is not important.

  •  Help your daughter cope with her emotions. Some strategies may include distraction, relaxing activities such as colouring, taking a break from a difficult task and coming back to it later, encouraging her to ask for help if she is becoming upset, encouraging family time, playing with a pet, physical activity.

  •  Assess your own coping skills. Our children are constantly watching us and learning from us. What does your child see when you are faced with a challenge or a stressful situation? I can completely relate to this as I have heard my own daughter use my ‘voice’ when she is bossing her younger brother around! Be aware of yourself and use some of your challenges as learning experiences for your daughter. Talk to her about your feelings (age-appropriate of course) and let her know how you plan to solve your problem or cope with your emotion.


Follow mnnews.today on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Tanya Russell Image
Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

Other Aurora Issues

comments powered by Disqus