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Frankly Fatherhood: Teaching Resilience

“Daddy, a boy at school called me a stupid-head!”

His words instantly break my heart. I remember well the feeling of being made fun of and the anguish that comes from hurtful words. And while my instinct wants to cover my son up in bubble wrap, drive away as fast as I can, and never return to this horrific school, I am reminded that rescuing my son is not the answer here.

Resilience is a hot topic these days among my teacher colleagues. Many kids seem to be easily overwhelmed and lack the tools to deal with everyday challenges. And while I recognize that as parents we will do anything to save their kids from harm, we also need to learn when to allow our kids to experience adversity and daily stress, so they learn how to problem solve.

Kids need to learn how to take tests, complete assignments, move to new neighbourhoods, wait their turn, get sick, make new friends, get a skinned knee, and deal with a bully. So how do we raise resilient kids? A Google search gave me a few things to try at home.

• Don’t rescue him from every situation – it’s ok to allow him to experience frustration, it’s ok to let the ice cream fall to the ground, or the toy to snap in half.

• Step back and let her try it – encourage independence to try new things, opening a container, climbing up the slide, sleeping in a tent alone.

• Encourage kids to help themselves – thirsty? Get yourself a cup of water! Lost your toy? Start looking for it in the living room where you last saw it.

• Teach them to problem solve – instead of offering to help, ask your kid “how can we solve this problem together?” Give them the chance to work through it and test their solution (even if it takes a few tries).

• Stick to your limits – “5 more minutes” really needs to mean FIVE more minutes! Set a timer on your phone and follow through.

• Play board games – it encourages patience, turn taking, how to lose, how to win, and it’s FUN!

• Help to manage emotions – kids quickly learn that dramatic displays will get you to rescue them. Instead, acknowledge how they feel and encourage them to figure out the next step. “I can tell your brother is frustrating you, is there a way to distract him into the other room?”

• Model optimism – explain that struggles are challenges to overcome, not avoid. Teach them phrases like “this too shall pass” and “every challenge makes you stronger”.

• Model resiliency – kids learn BEST by modeling the ones they love. Talk yourself out of a problem, explain how you feel and how this feeling will help you make a better choice,admit your mistake and how you’ll improve next time.

Kids with resiliency will not try to escape stressful situations but feel empowered to try to handle them on their own. They grow up to be more confident, independent, and able to face life’s challenges. And isn’t that what we want for our kids?

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.

 

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