Here are some additional tips for building resiliency skills in children:
Talk through problems
Get in the habit of helping children think through problems and envision potential consequences of their actions. Role play different scenarios and possible outcomes throughout their lives. Part of raising a resilient child is helping kids learn how to think through a difficult situation. So model how you think through such problems yourself.
When appropriate, talk about the various dilemmas you face and the different options you could take, and what consequences each one might bring: I could get angry and stay upset, but would that actually change anything? If we tell her how this made you feel, what do you suppose would happen? You might talk about coping strategies such as self-talk or writing about the problem in order to formulate a plan to address it. Or simply sit down and brainstorm with a child for solutions.
Not only will this enhance their ability to handle adversity in life, but it helps build social intelligence by providing valuable input about what other minds are thinking and how they approach difficult situations.
Emphasize values over rules
Most parents spend more time enforcing rules than they do talking about the values the rules are supposed to promote. It may seem like a subtle distinction, but it matters a great deal.
Rules by their very nature are rigid and inflexible, whereas values encourage children to think critically about different situations. Rules teach children to conform, whereas values teach children how to act ethically in any situation, especially in those situations where conformity is wrong or misguided, as is often the case in social situations. Rules are but a blunt instrument to try and instill proper values, and so parents should focus more on the value end of the equation.
This ties in with the point given earlier about how you should include discussions and explanations with your disciplining. When you talk to your kids about right or wrong, emphasize the values that will help children see things diametrically and from all different perspectives: Compassion, empathy, honesty, integrity, understanding, and so on.
Encourage fictional reading & make-believe
“Stories and playtime are teachable moments. Never underestimate their value. They are the language our children speak.”
– Dr. Oz (2010, p. 52)
Reading is important for kids, and not just in terms of literacy. Children who read more score higher on tests of theory of mind than those who spend the same amount of time watching television. (Oatley, 2012) This is because whereas television simply portrays images that children absorb, books task their mind with creating these scenes and scenarios largely on their own. Rather than passively observing, their mind sets out to recreate each character’s state of mind and try to see things from their point of view. Reading fictional books allows children to build empathy, develop their knowledge about how other minds work, and identify with characters in a variety of different social situations. This just doesn’t happen to the same degree with other forms of media. So read stories with them often, and encourage fictional reading as they grow older.
Dig deeper into storybooks
When you read your children storybooks, don’t just stick to the script within the pages. Talk about the lessons within the story, ask your children to give you input and tell you what they think the different characters were thinking, and otherwise engage them in the story outside of the words on the page. Studies find that mothers who interject the reading with explanations, inferences, and analogies of how the story applies to the real world have children who show greater gains in both vocabulary and comprehension of the situation. (Detemple, 1995) It also builds a child’s social intelligence. The more explanations you give to children and the more opportunities you provide for discussion, the stronger their social skills will become.