In part I of my blog on Emotional Resilience, we discussed its importance in our upcoming generation, and I hope you all enjoyed your bond-building through ‘us-time’. While trust/bond building is a life-long process, there are other effective ways as well, which when applied to everyday situations, help your children to connect with their emotional selves and strengthen their emotional resilience.
Help them name and express their emotions
Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, wrote that ‘Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways’.
The tiny neurons of children’s curious minds struggle hard to understand and fit in the world of grown-ups. In their tender age they find emotions too chaotic and confusing. They are unaware of the acceptable ways to express their feelings. Under emotionally overwhelming situations they either choose to externalise their helplessness via emotional outbursts (which we usually label as tantrums) or internalise it by repressing their emotions.
Take advantage of these chaotic situations to help them put a name to their emotions and convey the message that it’s natural and acceptable to feel sad, angry, happy, fearful and disgustful. This would not only give validation to their emotions, but they would also feel comfortable in expressing something which is real, natural and acceptable.
A situation – Anaya has spent hours to fix her Itsy-Bitsy Lego pieces together into a plane. Mom’s one absent-minded footstep and the plane is back to pieces. Anaya’s pain is unbearable, and her outburst is inevitable. However, the situation also offers an opportunity to familiarize Anaya with her emotions and teach her ways of expressing herself in non-off-putting ways.
Probable solution – In current situations telling Anaya that you understand her anger and sadness and you are extremely apologetic about it, helps her put a name (anger and sadness) to her emotions and your apology might calm her a bit. Below are some of the ways of expressing emotions:
- Crying it out, if it is helping them calm down (often crying is considered embarrassing and a sign of weakness especially for boys, however it’s a great calming tool for both the genders)
- Taking a time-out
- Saying what they are feeling rather than acting it out
- Asking for help or support
- Finding different ways of doing things
Their problems are as real as ours
My daughter’s struggle to differentiate between ‘b’ and ‘d’ is as real as my struggle to parallel park my car. When I expect validation for my problems, appreciation for my efforts and empathy to soothe my emotions; the same way her minor appearing problems need acknowledgement, her every little effort deserves appreciation and encouragement.
Every little school teasing, fight with friends or an unintentional harsh remark from their teachers affects them. Quick fixes like ‘ignore it’ or ‘try to be strong’ won’t help. This would only leave lots of questions unanswered and precious emotions unexpressed. Instead, try to dive deep into the issue, ask them questions, which would require them to rethink through the issue, and brainstorm the solutions with them. Make a list of their ideas and weigh the pros and cons of each of them. They might come up with a solution themselves which would not only boost their self-confidence as a problem-solver, but their trust in you as well.
Teach them to embrace their failures
“If there is one thing that is inevitable in your journey towards success, it would be failure”
“He can’t accept defeat; he has to win all the times”
“I can’t see tears in my girl’s eyes”
“I won’t leave any opportunity of making my kid happy, if he needs it, he must get it.”
These kinds of parental phrases are getting common these days. They are meant to reflect the strength of their kid’s character. However, there are problems attached to this kind of behaviour:
Harsh is just a 5-year-old and for his age he is very sharp. His favourite part of the day is to play board games with his family. During the game his every smart move wins him applause, but each error is met with sad faces and disappointed eyes.
Quite soon he learnt that his success powers his parents’ happiness. As a result, he started evading the situations of failure. Before his every move he would wait for his parents’ nod. This helps him win, but he is certainly losing his self-reliance. God forbid, if he still loses, he will resort to cheating or leave the game.
We all want to see our kids as winners, but we also need to teach them to embrace failures and see them as opportunities to explore new options and strengthen their capabilities.
Don’t go overboard to avoid their disappointments
Parents are willing to go beyond their capacity to protect their children from the pain of unfulfilled expectations. But the fact is disappointments are a part of our life and by playing their saviour we are depriving them of emotional resiliency, coping and problem-solving skills which are crucial to succeed both in personal and professional space.
You know your children and their limits better, and it’s your decision when to yield to their demands and when to take a strong stand. Just remember, the disappointment every failure brings could be good as long as they know how to cope up with it and bounce back.
Praise their efforts not the wins alone
When your child succeeds at an arduous puzzle, how do you praise him or her?
“Oh, you are really intelligent” or “Wow, you must have really worked hard for it”? Often, we label our kids as smart, intelligent and talented. I’m sure they are all of these, but labelling burdens them. Every new challenge brings the pressure to succeed and as a result they tend to avoid risks associated with new methods and their every failure brings demotivation and self-doubts.
However, praising their behavioural characteristics like hard-work, planning in advance, extensive practice, curiosity, etc. motivates them to improvise their efforts and encounter uncertainties.
Motivate them to take healthy risks
Humans are designed to take risks. Risks are in fact a great source of joy, they strengthen will power and open doors to unlimited opportunities, only if they are taken in safe environment.
Healthy risk taking is a big part of growth and it moulds your identity. Healthy risks can be simple ones like taking part in new sport or volunteering with community group or a little scary one like performing on a stage, being a class leader.
The list is endless, but I hope you get the message. If the stakes involved are minor failures, rejections or getting your feelings hurt, then it’s probably a risk worth taking.
Finally, drive as you want them to drive. Our children observe us like hawks and consider us their role models (at least in their young ages). Show them your emotional side, tell them about the risks you took, and mistakes you made. Also, make sure you are praising their every little effort and keep taking advantage of daily opportunities to strengthen their emotional resiliency.