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Resilience is being able to bounce back from stress, challenge, tragedy, trauma or adversity. When children are resilient, they are braver, more curious, more adaptable, and more able to extend their reach into the world. The great news is that resilience is something that can be nurtured in all children.
Adversity in life makes the body to function fast in order to become more alert and faster, many changes occur in the body, brain and body works faster in coordination. Our heart rate increase, pulse goes up, blood pressure increases and adrenaline and cortisol run through the body.
The biological basis of resilience
Generally the amygdala, the part of brain which is responsible for our impulsive responses, initiated the stress. Brain releases chemicals like, adrenaline and cortisol in order to help body to deal with stress. During stress many other physiological changes takes place and over an extended period of time, they can even weaken the immune system, the body and the brain.
The prefrontal cortex which is at front of the brain gets temporarily shut down during stress. It is the emotional regulator of the brain. Attention, problem solving, impulse control, and regulating emotion are main functions of the prefrontal cortex.
Resilience is the capacity to activate the prefrontal cortex and calm down the amygdala. It leads to relieve the stress and helps body to relax and brain to work with rational thinking. Resilience is not something genetically served and it can be built at any time of life. The experiences of life and day to day activities, we are exposed to help to change the wiring of the brain and to shape an individual to become more resilient to face the life situations.
Building resilience in children
Little children cannot become bigger and resilient individuals by removing the adversity from their way. If we will serve them with all the comforts and provide them every little thing they ever asked for will never help them to become resilient. We need to stop giving into their demands and desires but not the basic needs. A little stress and struggle in life is wonderful and helps them to develop those skills in life that will flourish their future.
Strengthening them towards healthy living is about nurturing within them the strategies to deal with that adversity. Here’s how:
- Resilience needs relationships. Research suggests that a strong and caring relationship with the caring adult and supportive parents help children to develop coping skills. The presence of a responsive adult can also help to reverse the physiological changes that are activated by stress while an angry and strict parent can reverse the action. the presence of support from parents to deal with adversity also protect from the bodily damages .
- Increase their exposure to people who care about them. Peer and social support helps to develop positive emotions, self-confidence, self-esteem, motivation, and hence resilience. Reminding your child, that you are always there to help you, to solve their every small problem, cheering them up when they even do not succeed. Even a small gesture when you child get up after falling while cycling, that ‘I told your Grandma how brave you were. She’s so proud of you.’
- Make them believe that it is okay to ask for help. Children are generally in disbelief that asking for help from others does not make them any stronger and brave. it is very important to tell them being brave means knowing when to ask for help. Also, helping them just to facilitate them not to do the activity for them.
- Improving their decision-making. It will also help to strengthen the prefrontal cortex and helps them to manage their feelings, emotional and behaviour. This can be achieved through establishing routine, modelling healthy social behaviour, creating and maintaining relationships, helping them to make their own social connections, creative play, playing games in which they have to wait for their turn, memory games, encouraging for meditation and mind fullness.
- Build feelings of competence. Nurture in them the feeling that keeps on reminding them they can do hard things. To develop competence, it is very important for parents to acknowledge their strengths and encouraging them to make their own decisions. This will enable them to resolve the problems rather than reacting on them. Once they will have the sense of mastery of this and will able to handle future challenges in a better way.
- Model resiliency. For children imitation is a powerful toll to learn something new, to bring change in their behaviour. Imitation can help to mould their behaviour, because every little child always watch and observe the behaviour of his parents. So if you want your Children to be resilient, model resiliency for them. Let them how to cope up with failures, disappointments and unsuccessful events of life. Sharing with them your emotional world in order to help them to see sadness, disappointments, feeling bad or not having a good day are normal experiences of Human life. Believe me, to cope up with your emotions, sadness, sharing with your children is the best thing ever provided that sharing should be age appropriate. It will help you a lot apart from teaching your child to be resilient in life.
- Encourage them to take considerable amount of risk. It is important for children to have courage to doing something brave and difficult rather than the outcome. Age appropriate freedom to take risks, encourage them to take decisions and assuring them that they can cope up when things can go wrong. As parent assure them that you love them no matter what, try to do things harder and harder, even if you do not succeed you will be stronger with every move. All you need is the courage to take risk to open up to the world around.
- Do not rescue them every time. It is in the valuable to space between falling and standing back up again help children to find their feet. Parents need to scoop them up and giving them a stable environment enables them with required strength to move forward. But do not do it every time, because exposure to stressors and challenges during childhood will help to ensure their ability to deal with stress during adulthood. Early experiences are the foundation for positive changes in the prefrontal cortex that can protect against the negative effects.
- Nurture a growth mindset. Make them believe that if we can change, and so can other people. Researches have suggested that people who have potential to change and are more resilient to the adverse and tough situations.Children who believe that people can change with time are more resilient as compared to those children who believe that victim will always be victim and bully will always be a bully. Such children are less prone to anxiety, stress, and depression. They feel better about themselves and have positive response to adversities and social exploitation.
- Make time for creativity and play. Problem-solving is a creative process. Anything that strengthens their problem-solving skills will nurture their resilience. Children are naturally curious, inquisitive and creative. Give them the space and the time to play and get creative, and they’ll do the rest.
- Let them talk. Try to resist solving their problems for them rather be the sound support whenever and wherever they need to be. When they talk, their mind is processing and strengthening. Guide them, but wherever you can, let them talk and try to come up with their own solutions. Parents are the safest place in the world for children to experience new things. Most important tell you’re your children every day that you love them unconditionally and be their support even when they fail, they do not come up to your expectations. Make them resilient with your love and support.
Every child is different and has different abilities to do things. Some children are always cheerful while some whine at every small thing? Every child has potential for happiness and greatness but it means different things to different kids. As parents, teachers or educators we can never change the challenges they have to face but we can definitely make them skilful so that the challenges of life can never break them. We can help them to become resilient.
Image credit: Freepik
Dr Parvinder Kaur is a Research Fellow at the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Punjab Agricultural University.
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