Category Archives: Grief and Loss

How to promote resilience in kids

Not everyone displays the same characteristics of resilience, however there are a number of predictors of resilience which can be encouraged and taught.

People with good resilience adapt to difficult situations and stress by using a variety of resources and protective factors that are either external-in the environment around the person, or internal -personal attributes or beliefs. Parents can help their child develop resilience by promoting a mixture of both external and internal factors.

Changes Psychology sports team resilience

External factors that have positive influences on a child’s resilience include:

  • Establishing and maintaining connections with other people, e.g. family, friends, community group, school.
  • Having caring, competent adults in their life
  • Experiencing success in areas of interest including sport, music, arts
  • Helping others
  • Having predictable but flexible routines
  • Being involved in cultural beliefs and practices
  • Participating in school events

 

Internal factors that have positive influence on a child’s resilience include:

  • Problem solving skills
  • Emotional and behavioural regulation
  • A positive sense of self-worth
  • Believing that life has meaning and hope
  • Feeling valued for an ability or skill
  • Being aware of, and able to implement self care
  • Experiencing success with setting reasonable goals and moving toward them
  • Learning from experience
  • Accepting that change is inevitable and can be positive

Read more: How family and Community create resilient kids

Why we need more Resilience in our children

Resilience is a skill that can be learned and practiced throughout life and a skill we need to be teaching our children.

Teaching children resilience facilitates their ability to cope with difficulties, whether they be daily events like stress of schoolwork, or infrequent trauma like losing a loved one. Changes Psychology Promoting resilience in our kids

Some people face more adversity in life than others, but the ability to cope and draw on protective factors benefits every child.

Research suggests children with low resilience tend to be more socially isolated, have poorer social skills, be more vulnerable to mental health problems, be more likely to become involved in criminal activities and/or violence, experience school failure, demonstrate challenging behaviours, have poorer physical health, lower self esteem, and hold a negative view of the future.

Children with higher levels of resilience have healthy attachments and connections with others, feel valued, believe in their own abilities and strengths, learn to set realistic goals, have healthy self esteem, are both physically and psychologically healthier, and have a positive and hopeful outlook for the future.

While the degree of resilience differs between individuals and circumstances, it makes sense then that parents and significant adults in children and young people’s lives help promote protective factors that can increase our children’s ability to cope with situations and successfully adapt for the future.

Read more: How to create resilient kids!

What is resilience and can it be learned?

Changes Psychology Children and resilienceResilience has become a common term used when talking about how children, and adults, cope in the face of adversity.

Resilience is having the ability to ‘bounce back’ and adapt to challenges and stressors in life. It is an important skill to have as we will all experience difficult times, setbacks, and stress. Resilience doesn’t mean a person has no emotional reactions to events – it is normal and healthy to feel emotional pain and distress when either we experience difficulties or hear about others’ traumatic experiences.

Instead, resilience involves acknowledging our emotions and implementing effective thoughts and behaviours to build our capacity to cope with life events and hardships. It is not a trait humans are born with but rather one that can be developed and learned over time, and a wonderful life skill to pass on to our children.

People who are resilient tend to have a higher sense of self-worth, and be more confident and hopeful. It is not however necessary,nor advisable, to throw our kids into traumatic situations in order to build up their resilience.

Most children living in supportive families and communities learn ways to adapt to situations they face in life which can help them cope better when they face challenging or threatening circumstances. However, there are a number of things parents, teachers and significant adults can do to help promote resilience in children.

Read More: Why we need more resilience in our Children

Ensure a smooth first day at Prep

The first day of any school year is filled with a roller Changes Psychology first-day-of-schoolcoaster of emotions, for parents and children. Even for teachers! The first day of prep however is filled with it’s own special challenges and there are many things parents and carers can do to smooth the way for their children.

 

What can parents and carers do on that first day to help?

  • Be organised! Organise as much as you can before the first morning. Have your child’s clothes and shoes set out, lunches packed and school bag ready to go. Try to have a more relaxed morning.
  • Talk about other children or siblings your child already knows who will be at the school
  • If brothers or sisters are at the school, talk with them about doing a quick check in or hello at some point during the day.
  • Ask your child if they have any questions and answer them simply. They might be worried about where the toilets are, or how you’ll know when to come get them.
  • Remind your child of where you’ll pick them up or meet them.
  • Stay with your child as long as the teacher wants you to and be confident when it comes time to say goodbye. Prolonging the separation can make it more difficult for all of you, so establish a plan, with the teacher if necessary, in making the transition to being under the teacher’s care.

 

After the first day

  • Take the time to talk to your child about their day and be ready to hear what they want to talk about
  • Don’t push your child for information but let them know you are really interested
  • Give your child time to relax and take a nap if needed. School is tiring!
  • Consider minimising your child’s extra-curricular activities during the first few months of school. Tired “preppies” at the end of first term is a very common story.

 

If you are concerned about how your child is managing school, take the opportunities to talk to the teacher. Teachers can be really busy in the mornings and afternoons so if you want a longer chat, arrange a special meeting to discuss your concerns or achievements.
Read more: Starting prep: Mums and Dads Emotional Roller Coaster

Helping Children Through Traumatic Media Events

Why are all those people crying Mum?

We’ve all been struggling to cope with the endless stream of horrific world news of late: the plane crashes, terrorist attacks, and the wars that continue. We also have the biggest role in helping our children cope. So what should they know? How do we talk to them about it? Will it just make them afraid?

Since the wars in Iraq in the early 90’s and more so after 9/11 the way we see events in the media has changed. 24 hour tv coverage, live updates on twitter, emergency alerts being sent by sms make it possible for us to get deeply involved.

Kids are not ignorant to what we hear and see and how we respond. They also are far more likely to see or hear this news for themselves through the same channels as us- tv, ipads, newspapers,radio news,  and through friends, and listening to adults talk. We can’t completely shield them, and the question of whether we should is a question for individual families,so knowing what to say, what to do and how to support them is really important.

What to do to help kids cope with the news unfolding around them:

Reduce our immersion in the event

Firstly we need to limit how immersed we get in it. Studies after the Boston marathon terrorist attack showed that adults who watched more than 6 hours of coverage a day in the days after experienced higher anxiety related issues than those directly affected by the event.*

Not that we should pretend to not be affected by things for our kids sakes, but increased exposure to media coverage will affect us more, reducing our coping skills, and increasing the exposure the kids are likely to have.

 

Limit kids exposure

Changes Psychology screens kids suitable Secondly, should kids be seeing any of the media coverage if we can help it? As said, it’s almost impossible to shield them entirely even if we want to, but, yes we should definitely be limiting their exposure to it

At Changes many of our clients are preschoolers or early primary, and it’s these kids that will be impacted the most.  Australian APS Psychologist Dr Susie Burke- Senior psychologist for disasters says, “ It’s the slightly older children, who are aware enough to know what they are seeing [and] to be disturbed by it, but who aren’t necessarily able to see that it’s a one-off discrete happening,” she says.*

The World Health organisation recommends children not be exposed to rolling media coverage. That is ongoing live news, or any news where they are likely to see the same events, usually traumatic, repeatedly. There is also some evidence that suggest video images of tragedy and “bad” news,rather than radio or pictures, will have a greater impact on children. So reduce their exposure.

 

Don’t hide it and be there to talk about it

Trying to hide bad news and tragedy from them entirely, and not talking about it if they ask, is likely to create more confusion and fear.

You know your child best so pick a time to discuss it in a “no big deal” kind of way. If you often read the news and tell them something about it, do that. If you talk in the car after hearing news on the radio do that. If there’s no ideal time, you can involve them in a conversation you are having with someone, or if you are upset by events, explain to them that you are and what happened.

 

Explain simply, answer their questions, build resilience and make them feel safe 

Kids often don’t want or need the background of the issues. Usually they know you are upset, or the people on tv are, and children will  feel afraid, or unsafe.

Kids often don’t want or need the background of the issues. Usually they know you are upset, or the people on tv are, and children will  feel afraid, or unsafe.

  • Explain what has happened in terms they’ll understand trying to keep fairly calm yourself
  • Keep the conversation  similar to others you have with them but providing more emphasis on that your child is safe and protected and being positive when the child says something like “it’s going to be okay” or “that won’t happen here”.
  • Let them know this is not something that will happen to them. Even though we know that that isn’t always the case, children of that age will not understand the difference between it’s unlikely to happen and it will happen to them
  • Answer their questions
  • Talk about their feelings, and yours if they are are ready. Younger children are more likely to be afraid if you are. Talking to children about their feelings in this situation will help them to be able to do more of that when they need to in future
  • Some kids may not want to discuss things at all and won’t be affected. Don’t push them to talk more after you’ve explained simply, if they do seem okay.
  • Remind them that the news doesn’t tell us about all the wonderful things that happen all the time and if they are ready to hear it, or older, that sometimes the news makes things seem worse than they are
  • If they seem very affected, remind them of the good things that sometimes come out of bad things- show them the flowers in Sydney after The Lindt cafe event, or people showing they love each other.
  • Lots of hugs and whatever it normally takes to make your little one to feel safe

If they are older primary, they may well be discussing refugees, religion, and politics in school so will probably have more questions. Its a good time for us as adults to find out more background to events with them in tow if  they want to know more, and seem ready to know more.

Changes Psychology girl globe

 

Move on

Once you’ve discussed it with the child, move onto an activity with you, or outside, or something very different to what you’ve been discussing. This reminds them everything is continuing as normal, and things are okay as long as their family and friends are around.

For older children, and those who seem more affected by events, it may require doing positive things with them to show that they are not helpless. Flowers on a memorial, a letter or picture for someone they saw upset, helping set up a day at school where they get kids to donate.

Fortunately most kids move on much better than we will. Keep an eye on how you are coping afterwards. Find ways to help yourself cope. As always, your child will learn many of their coping skills from the way you do it.

And if at any point you are worried about your child’s response to media exposure, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a Free Phone Consultation

 

Sources: *Helping children cope with traumatic media coverage by ClaudineRyanhttp://www.abc.net.au/health/thepulse/stories/2014/07/22/4050435.htm