How to Build Resilience
August 25, 2021
by Emily Thompson, MSW, LICSW
Have you ever admired someone for their resilience? Maybe it was a friend who recovered from cancer or a teen who lost a parent. Resilience is having the capacity to cope with and bounce back from stress, adversity, failure, challenges and trauma.
Resilience isn’t something you’re born with. Resilience is actually a learned skill that anyone can develop with practice, determination and problem solving. You’re never too old or too young to build this skill! Here are some tips on how to build or enhance resilience in ourselves and our children.
Connect: When we know we have the support of a parent, friend, spouse or family member, we can look to them for guidance as we navigate a difficult situation. As parents, our unconditional support can empower our children to come to us with their challenges and we can teach them problem-solving and coping skills.
Take healthy risks: Healthy risks take us out of our comfort zones but are not harmful. Healthy risks for adults and children alike can be trying a new sport, volunteering or learning a new skill. When we avoid risks, we start to believe we can’t handle new things or opportunities. Healthy risks also help us push ourselves, develop confidence, and in turn build resilience.
Teach problem-solving skills: Make sure your children know they can come to you for help. As parents, we sometimes want to “fix it” right away for our children. Instead of fixing the issue for them, ask questions and brainstorm solutions, and support your child while assisting them to come up with a reasonable outcome. Practice what you teach by also using these same problem solving skills when you have a problem.
Name emotions and move on: Emotions rise when stress kicks in. Name the feelings such as anxiety, sadness, envy. Remind yourself that the feelings will pass. Do the same to reassure and validate your children when they are dealing with big emotions.
Practice coping skills: When you or your children are stressed out or frustrated, try some deep breathing techniques, count to 10 or take a time out.
Learn from mistakes: Don’t look at mistakes as failures. Instead look at mistakes as a chance to learn and grow. We all make mistakes. We are all human after all. Talk to your children about a mistake you made and how you recovered. It may feel good to talk about it and your child will learn that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. Like you, they can recover.
Look on the bright side: As a therapist I am always encouraging my patients to “challenge their negative thinking patterns” and this can be done by reframing situations. An example of a reframe can be used with the following scenario: your daughter totals the car after you stopped paying collision insurance. Instead of having an abrupt response, utilize the coping strategies identified above, such as deep breathing. Refocus and look at the brighter side, focus on the positive that no one was hurt. That’s the most important thing. This more optimistic perspective will make both you and your daughter feel better.
Exercise: Physical activity, especially outdoors, can help reorganize the brain to better handle stress and anxiety. So get outside with your kiddos. Walk, run, bike, hike, play, swim, throw a Frisbee, head to the playground, play tag! Do whatever moves you.
We all have the power to be resilient!