As a mom-to-be, my world has become all about how to have a baby, raise a baby, keep a baby healthy, keep a baby ALIVE. Wanted or not, my brain — and inbox — are being flooded with advice and information. But as someone who works in the mental health field, I’ve found myself beginning to explore beyond sleep schedules and feeding plans.
How do I raise this baby in an emotionally, mentally and spiritually healthy environment from an early age? How do I empower and encourage instead of enable and over-protect? How do I help build resiliency that will lead her to live the best possible life she can live?
“TRAIN UP A CHILD IN THE WAY HE SHOULD GO; EVEN WHEN HE IS OLD HE WILL NOT DEPART FROM IT.” (PROVERBS 22:6, ESV)
With a combination of research and experiences, here are seven ways I think we can encourage resiliency in our kids…at any age:
1. Point them to Christ.
Even secular psychologists and researchers confirm that having a connection with faith and a “higher power” is a valuable way to build resilience. As Christians, we already knew that of course! By encouraging your son or daughter to take their worries and situations to the Lord first will build a habit of surrender and reliance upon the Lord when things feel out of control. Encourage them with God’s sovereignty and goodness.
2. Let them make mistakes.
Lynn Lyons, LICSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxious families, states that “whenever we try to provide certainty and comfort, we are getting in the way of children being able to develop their own problem-solving and mastery.” Contrary to popular belief, it is ok for kids to fail – and try again. In fact, this is the main component of building resiliency!
3. Validate their feelings.
If you’ve participated in our Grace Academy group facilitator training, you know that this is part of a tool that we train all group facilitators in. Just like group participants, you want your child to feel heard and understood. Feelings are ok and normal!
4. Don’t overbook their schedules.
Oh goodness is this a struggle in today’s world! Between soccer practice, math tutor, piano lessons, SAT classes and more, your child (even at a young age) may start to feel overwhelmed and overstimulated with how many activities they are being forced to participate in. Don’t be afraid to scale back and provide some rest and relief for your child (and you). This also frees up time for them to be creative and be a kid!
5. Watch the way you speak.
If you tend towards catastrophizing or anxiety-driven speech, remember that this may transfer your own anxieties onto your children. For example, “We would love for you to get your driver’s license so that you can spend more time with your friends!” versus “You need to get your driver’s license because you may never see your friends if you don’t.”
6. Avoid giving them all the answers.
If there’s anything I learned in my years in college ministry, it’s that it’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” In fact, I often noticed more growth in students if I didn’t just give them an answer to every problem they had and instead, encouraged them through their own problem-solving process.
7. Cultivate and encourage close connections and relationships.
Even as infants, children are affected by the closeness they experience with a stable and safe person. As they grow, having strong relationships with parents or caregivers will have a huge impact on how they develop emotionally and mentally, teaching them self-confidence, safety, empathy and more.
Which of these can you try today?