Category Archives: Resilience and Self-confidence

Resilience in Children



resilient-child-1What is resilience: An Overview

There are times when as parents, we may think that our children spend their daily lives being carefree and not worrying over anything. However, the demands of today’s society may actually ask our children to deal with certain concerns that can range from something as simple as adjusting to a new school environment to more complex situations such as those that involve bullying from their peers. If we add this to the notion that our children are still in the process of finding their place in the world, it is possible for their lives may not be as happy-go-lucky as we may assume. Despite this, our children can develop the capacity to adapt to adversities that they may encounter, and this capacity is known as resilience.

Now, we might think that the concept of resilience is more applicable in situations that would involve adolescents. After all, because their world is more expanded, adolescents seem to be the ones who are exposed to more life stressors. But as we have stated in the previous paragraph, as society continues to evolve and young children may encounter situations requiring resilience. Some examples of these situations include hearing about bad things in the news or in media, witnessing their parents fight, and seeing a classmate go through family concerns.

How do we know if our children are resilient?

Resilient children, or children who are showing resilience in certain situations, display specific characteristics.  They are able to express and articulate their emotions and they can say what is on their mind. In addition, they are able to experience strong emotions such as anger but can also overcome them. They are able to manage themselves when a situation makes them upset. Likewise, when they have concerns such as having a hard time with their schoolwork, they are able to create varying possible solutions that they could try out. When a solution does not work, they would know when to stop doing it but would remain hopeful about the outcome. Similarly, if they need help, they know who and when to ask for it.  In other words, children who are resilient can “bounce back” from the things that life would throw at them because they have the coping skills that are essential for bouncing back. So in a way, we can say that for resilient children, “if life throws them lemons, they make a lemonade out of them!”

resilience-2-1Why is developing resilience important?

Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. With this statement, Darwin was able to capture the idea of resilience in very few words and imply that survival and evolution is about adapting to change and overcoming difficulties.

Being resilient though does not mean that children will not feel “anxiety or uncertainty”, it just means that they manage it more productively. There is still a possibility that they would feel anxious and uncertain but if they are resilient, they will likely have a buffer against these experiences.

Because they have a buffer, children who are resilient may experience less stress. This however does not mean that they will not be overwhelmed by stressors at other times. They may have stressors and they may experience stress related to these things. But the amount of resilience they have can make them more prepared and more willing to face their stressors. Social stressors may include being teased by their peers, as well as being accepted in one group and excluded in another. At the same time, in the classroom, they will have to deal with increasing complex academic tasks as they move through the years.

They have to juggle these school stressors while balancing their roles at home and in the community. When all of these things add together, it is possible for our children to get confused and feel lost at times. It is also common for them to doubt their ability to succeed in each of their tasks and roles e.g. as students, peers, sons or daughters, and as siblings. However, helping them develop their resilience, can help them to manage their emotions better, get along with others well, cope with their concerns and make good decisions. In fact, resilience can help them come up with practical skills that they could use to solve many of their academic and non-academic concerns.

resilience-3How can we help our children develop resilience?

Now that we are more aware of the nature and the importance of resilience, what are the things that we could possibly do to help our children become more resilient? Here are some of the suggestions that we were able to compile from our resources.

  • Maintain an open communication line with them and regular times to communicate. Sometimes, we find ourselves managing so many things that we end up forgetting to properly listen to our children and what’s going on in their world. But when they come to us with their fears and their questions, it can be a helpful cue to stop what we are doing, sit down with them and explore what’s going on with them. Sometimes, all our children need use to do is to be present and interested in their concerns, and not necessarily give them advice on how to ‘fix’ the problems.
  • Encourage our children to make more connections with other people so they can experience the benefits of social support from others. There will always be times where we cannot be there for our children physically even when we want to e.g. when we are away for work. If our children have friends at school and have other older people with whom they have a connection, they can get a large dose of social support from all of these individuals. The support that others would give them may provide them the comfort and empathy that they need, which in turn can strengthen their resilience.
  • Establish, continue or tighten-up their daily routine. Kids, particularly the younger ones, find comfort in structure because structure provides them predictability which reduces their anxiety. When they are able to see this, they may gain better footing in terms of how they would approach their day. Structure can be done through the form of household chores, after-school clubs and activities and even playtime. When children engage in productive, structured activities, they may feel confident about their capacity to take on responsibilities and succeed in completing them.

For questions about child psychology you can visit: www.changespsychology.com.au

Helping Children to become resilient – the Butteryfly Effect and Bee Syndrome



campingHelping Children to become resilient:

Struggle like a butterfly, succeed like the bees, bounce back like the boxer

‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’….

Famous words from the world heavy weight champion boxer, Muhammad Ali.  So what do a butterfly, bee and boxer have in common? RESILIENCE.

Resilience is about recovery, or the ability to bounce back from an adversity.  How do we teach children to have these qualities as they grow up?  Preparing your children to face disappointment, changes and challenges in everyday life is a very important aspect of parenting.  Mother Nature is always a great teacher. Look at the life of the butterfly and the bee and see what you can learn from them.

Struggle like a butterfly

How beautiful is the butterfly? It is wonderful to admire their colourful wings and ability to flit from flower to flower enjoying a lovely summer’s day. However, if you look at the life cycle of the butterfly you will know that it did not arrive at its glorious stage in life without a struggle.

Parents need to realize that often it is the struggles that they allow children to face that could be the very opportunities their children need to develop character and resilience. Doing everything for your child and always picking up the pieces or making a plan so that they only experience success in every situation is not the best strategy. It might be convenient in the moment but it could also make your children  feel incapable of doing things for themselves? Seeing children being carried into school for instance says – ‘I am a baby, I need to be carried’ or picking up their school bags and holding everything while the child walks free and easy gives a message of ‘I’m not responsible, I need Mum to carry my school bag.”

It is so tempting, in the desire to be the best parent, to want to provide everything.  This leads to a need for immediate gratification.  I want it and I get it is an attitude that is not going to help develop many positive characteristics in your child, including resilience. Look again at the butterfly:It must have been pretty frustrating being stuck in a cocoon for a couple of weeks when all you wanted to do was fly! How can you teach your child to get wings and fly?

Some suggestions to help facilitate resilience:

  • Have some outdoor adventures together, go camping and struggle together with the campsite, erecting the tent, catching some fish for supper and other fun camping ideas.
  • Model positive coping skills to your children and talk about how to handle difficult situations.
  • Acknowledge children’s strengths and empower them to make decisions even if they make mistakes.
  • Recognise weaknesses and be open to discussions on feelings.
  • Go to great movies that provide a forum for a family outing followed by a discussion on the positive and negative parts of the film.

Family eating dinner

Succeed like the bees

Bees are social insects and live together in harmony with a structure and a well organised system of hardworking role models and a routine. This kind of lifestyle encourages family connection and teaching children in a safe environment.

There is law and order and routine in a beehive. Everyone knows their place and their value. Communication is important and every little bee is positive about their contribution to the hive. Human parents can also encourage their children to have a good work ethic and nurture a positive self-image. Set realistic attainable goals and be available to talk about how to help each other in different situations. When you have feelings of self-worth and positive coping skills you can stand firm in the face of adversity and be more resilient.

How do you encourage the bee syndrome at home?

Here are some ideas:

  • Have a routine at home that allows children to be part of the everyday responsibilities. Doing little chores around the house builds up character and family values.
  • Help children have a sense of belonging so when things go wrong they have a solid foundation to fall back on.
  • Make time to have family meals together and share coping skills.
  • Play board games as a family and encourage healthy competition.
  • Encourage friendships and fun outdoor exercise. Rough and tumble with friends is a great way to foster friendly bouts of resilience.
  • Be inventive and try new things, experiment with new recipes in the kitchen or try some fun science experiments at home. Remember, they don’t always have to work! Make mistakes to learn from. The inventor Thomas Edison learnt the hard way too!! What was Edison’s attitude? He said…. ‘I haven’t failed, I have identified 10 000 ways this doesn’t work.” We build resilience in our children by letting them try and try again.
  1. Bounce back like a boxer:

The art of resilience, swinging with the punches, taking the knocks and getting back up again. These are some of the characteristics of the boxer in the ring. It’s not really about the boxing, but more about keeping in mind some of the attributes of a boxer and his sport when supporting our children in facing the ‘hard knocks of life’.

How to roll with the punches and bounce back:

bouncing-back-feature1

  • Keep healthy hearts, minds and bodies.
  • Help children (and parents) see discipline not as punishment but opportunities for learning.
  • Keep stress at a manageable level. Don’t organise every minute of the afternoon with extra activities rushing from one place to another.
  • Take time out to be at home and do something creative.
  • Praise courage and tenacity – lean on those ropes and then bounce back ready to face the next round with strength of character and endurance.

Winston Churchill once said…”Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”

THE FINAL COUNTDOWN : (in butterfly terms)

B. be hopeful and confident in your self-worth
U. understand your feelings
T. try new things
T. talk about your problems
E. evaluate strengths and weaknesses
R. run, jump, skip and play outdoors
F. feel special and appreciated
L. look at mistakes as challenges
Y. yes you can try, and if you don’t succeed try and try again

Remember when nothing seems to be going right – go left! (Anonymous quote)

Resilience is developed through trial and error; no experience is wasted if it is handled in the right way.

To get more tips helping children to become resilient, you can visit the Child Psychology Brisbane

References:

Generation next.com.au

Healthy children .org

Family TLCfamily.net

Managing parenting stress (continued)



Strategies to help parents experiencing parenting stress (continued)

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and families of new parents will often offer their help by way of babysitting services, or cooking meals for the new family in the early days after baby’s arrival home. New parents may accept this help in the beginning but begin to feel they need to cope alone and refuse later offers of assistance. If you have more than one child, the load becomes even greater and asking for assistance may become vital to the well being of everyone in your family.
  • Spend time together: Spend time with your family doing something fun. Parents have so many daily demands on them that it is common to feel we don’t have time to enjoy our families. It may seem ridiculous, but consider scheduling in fun time with your family – we schedule everything else and those things that don’t get allocated time often don’t happen. Spending “quality” time with our family members alleviates stress, improves relationships, improves the behaviour of our children, and reminds us why we decided to have kids in the first place.
  • Manage mental health issues: Recognise when your own anxieties and worries are playing a role in your overall stress levels. Many parents find they have a set of their own personal concerns regarding their new family that contributes to their overall level of stress. Be this financial concerns, anxiety about raising children or other personal worries that may be contributing – it is important to seek professional assistance in working through those issues.

 

We all have ideal notions about what family life will be like but, unfortunately, daily demands of parenting, job requirements, running a household, financial stressors, and other responsibilities can tend to drain our mental and emotional resources, leading to stress. However, there are a few simple things you can do to alleviate some stress in your life and take the time to enjoy the family you have created.

 

Reference list

  1. http://www.alternet.org/culture/new-study-finds-having-your-first-child-makes-you-miserable
  2. http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/features/stress-and-your-baby

 

Managing Parenting stress



Many new parents spend the greater part of the 9 months of pregnancy dreaming and romanticising about their new family constellation and the “bundle of joy” they are about experience. Often the reality of having a baby is very different to the idea, and many parents find themselves somewhat overwhelmed by the adjustments and demands being placed on them in the first few months of caring for their new baby, and during periods of the years that follow when new challenges arise.

In fact, a new study on parental happiness (or the lack thereof) has found that, while anticipatory happiness rose in the year preceding the birth, a significant percentage of parents reported a drop in overall happiness once baby had arrived .  Then, each additional child introduces a new level of stress to the family dynamic.

Parent Stress changes child psychology brisbaneParental stress, while inevitable and normal, certainly has an effect on baby. Children are well aware of their parents’ reactions and attuned to their emotions. Many studies have indicated that when mum is stressed, the baby is likely to experience stress too . So while some of this stress is inevitable, managing parental stress becomes a priority – not only for the children’s sake, but for your own mental health as well.

The first step is to ensure that you are looking after yourself. It is very easy to forget about your own needs, or at least bump them to the bottom of the priority list, when you have children. However, it is really important that you prioritize your own needs as well. That means ensuring that you follow a healthy diet, get enough rest (wherever and whenever you can) and exercise. Taking out 30 minutes for a brisk walk by yourself can do wonders for your mental state – not only does it get the blood flowing, but it gives you some valuable time to yourself.

Other self care activities can take a few seconds and may seem more do-able if you feel strapped for time and energy:

  • breathe – take a long deep slow breath in and an even longer slower breath out
  • focus on what you are doing – use your senses to fully notice your actions and surroundings, e.g. with a mouthful of food take a second or two to notice the taste, texture, smell, sounds, and sights
  • stop what you are doing and sit with silence (for the few seconds that you get)
  • gently stretch – raise your arms above your head or out in front/to the sides, look left and right, roll your shoulders, try and touch your toes.
  • take a moment to switch off from the outside world – read an article in a magazine, check facebook (briefly!!), look through your junk mail…

Click here to read the second part of this article

Emotions and Resilience



Managing emotions and Resilience

Everyone experiences emotions – the feelings we have in response to situations and events. It is healthy to have a spectrum of emotions but the way our responses are expressed to others can cause difficulties. Children are generally less able to regulate, or control, their emotional expression than adults. This is due to brain development and is age-appropriate. However, supportive adults can help children express their emotions and associated behaviours in socially acceptable ways. Some ideas include:

  • Talking about emotions with your child in your everyday conversations. Using a variety of words to describe emotions encourages children to verbalise what they are feeling rather than act it out. Normalising ALL emotions is also important so your child feels ok about themselves, even when they are experiencing unpleasant emotions
  • Setting up realistic expectations and boundaries for behaviour. Children have very little control over what happens in their lives but being able to predict the outcomes of their behaviours helps them to make choices about how they express themselves.
  • Guiding behaviour with attention and acknowledgement of efforts to behave appropriately and safely. Pay more attention to the behaviours you want and less to the behaviours you don’t want (considering safety needs)
  • Modelling the expression your own emotions with appropriate words and behaviours. Children learn from those around them so your ways of expressing and managing emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant, are ideal opportunities to show kids that emotions can be felt and expressed safely and appropriately.

 

Self worth and Resilience



A positive sense of self worth for resilience

“Success begets success” – Anonymous

When we and our children are faced with difficulties, it can be helpful to remind ourselves or our children that we have been resilient and coped with hardships in the past. Having experienced successful coping or support in the past builds hope and confidence that current hardships can also be overcome. Even if your child has not faced significant challenges previously, help them to identify how they managed smaller issues as each problem is faced and solved builds on our ability to face future problems. This leads back to a previous factor of encouraging your child to make their own decisions or problem solve, with support as required, as your child will be able to draw on past problem solving plans to help with the current challenges. Other things supportive adults can do to help build a positive sense of self worth and resilience in children include:

  • encourage your child to use positive thinking and a “can do” attitude. Saying “I think I can” can help boost motivation to try to manage an issue rather than “I can’t…” which is giving up before giving it a go.
  • teach your child to see humour in life, and foster the ability to laugh at one’s self (laughing with, not at)
  • teach your child to learn to trust their own ideas, decisions and problem solving plans, and provide support as needed
  • Talk with your child about the things they are good at, their strengths, and how those strengths can be used in different situations
  • Read stories and/or watch shows that model children demonstrating positive expectations and efforts when faced with difficulties
  • Help children notice how their individual accomplishments can help others also, at home, school, in the community – offer to help someone out with an act of kindness

Regular time together



5. Plan a regular block of time every day or every couple of days after school to do an activity WITH your child.

Changes Psychology school routinesDo something individually with your child, that doesn’t involve homework or getting ready for school or for bed every day. Even just 5 minutes a day together, without the use of electronic devices, can really help strengthen the parent-child relationship, as children often really look forward to it as part of their day.

 

It is even more difficult for working parents who often do not get home until 6 or 7pm at night, however this makes 5 minutes together even more valued. You might choose to spend this time doing something together for 5 minutes before you start the dinner and bed routines. Or you might choose to  spend it just before bed, engaging in a ‘quiet time’ activity. Some examples are reading a book together, working on a puzzle or research a topic that might involve looking up information on the internet. It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, it’s more the fact that parents do it TOGETHER with their child, and not simply direct them to go and do it while they do something on their own.

The research shows that the strength of the parent-child relationship, called attachment, is enhanced with small blocks of time, from 1 to 5 minutes, spent engaging positively with children on a regular and predictable schedule – at least once per day and at a similar time of the day so children learn to expect it. The more you spend these brief blocks of time engaging with your child, the more your relationship will develop with them! And it’s also a good way to help reduce the frequency and intensity of challenging behaviours, as connecting more with a child can only help to reduce the anxieties or emotions underlying their behaviours.

 

Helpful use of rewards



Many adults the satisfaction of getting the chores out of the way then taking some time to relax each day. It’s helpful to get kids into the same pattern and habit as well, with alot of practice. It is common for many families to run into challenges when they let children have their rewards (eg ipad or computer time) first. THEN request them to complete a chore or go to bed. In the same way your boss does not pay you before completing a week of work, try to avoid slipping into the habit of rewarding first then requesting actions from your child

4. Reward good behaviours more often than you punish inappropriate behaviours or remove privileges or punish

Changes Psychology school routine and rewardsPositive reinforcement in the form of rewards helps to promote and build new skills. While negative reinforcement and punishment aims to stop or reduce undesirable behaviours, but does not teach new and more appropriate behaviours. Also when overused negative reinforcement or punishments tend to result in the behaviours becoming more intense and frequent.

When thinking of positive rewards, natural rewards are some of the most powerful motivators for children and adults. These involve children getting more time on an activity they enjoy IMMEDIATELY AFTER they complete the less desirable routine tasks first. Pocket money and star charts etc are helpful extrinsic rewards if designed well, however these often involve children waiting to receive rewards. Whereas natural rewards are a form of positive reinforcement that are experienced immediately and are often more sustainable on a daily basis than giving money, food or toys.

It is also helpful to use other ‘delayed’ rewards such as star charts, pocket money or a special outing  during a week as well as natural and immediate rewards, as these help children experience the satisfaction of working towards goals and rewards.

Use a visual routine planner



3. Use a visual routine planner

Changes Psychology School routine Visual PlannerOur experience, that is supported by the research, suggests that using visual cues helps to reduce the amount of verbal information given to children when parents are asking them to complete routine daily tasks. The visual cues also serve as a reminder of the sequence of tasks, which is important for them to learn independently. Verbal instructions also contain the powerful non-verbal cue – tone of voice, that can so easily communicate your sense of frustration to your child, and make the tasks less likely to get done and get resistance or resentment. Whereas, if you encourage them to use the visual planner as  a prompt for what to do next, the need to nag/remind them of what to do verbally reduces (with repeated practice) and you can save your words to praise them after the task has been completed. Over time, this process of parents saying relatively little before the task is done and instead praising descriptively after tasks are done, not only helps parents parents to stay calmer, but also reinforces children’s routine compliance and helps to develop rather than erode the parent-child relationship. And the stronger the parent-child relationship, and the more it is reinforced, the less behavioural issues and challenges many parents experience over time.

We recommend using a smart phone to take pictures of your child completing each stage of the morning and afternoon routine- we find this to be more effective than using pictures of the internet. Then simply rearranging these photos in a word document or email on your computer in the correct order and printing them out so you can print out the morning and afternoon/evening routines on separate pieces of paper. You can then stick them up on the fridge, somewhere in your living area or children’s bedroom and get in a habit of asking your child “what’s next” and having them point at it and say it out loud

5 Tips to get your kids back into the swing of school



There are many factors that can help children settle back into the school year – all involve consistency and predicatability of implementation.

It’s the consistent application of these areas that helps to reduce anxiety and aims reduce the incidence of challenging behaviours

1. Re-establish a regular before-school and after school routines from week 1

They might vary each day depending on commitments and might need to be varied for different children in a family. Routines are the foundation you can build other strategies and helpful behaviours on. Families that have inconsistent or unreliable routines tend to encounter more problem behaviours and more challenges on a daily basis.

The most helpful way to avoid inconsistent routines that vary from day to day, is to write down the morning and afternoon routines – most inconsistent routines are verbal and based on the parent verbally requesting the child to engage in the next activity.

The start of a new school year is a great opportunity to develop consistent morning and afternoon routines and enjoy a smoother running household overall.

2. Look into engaging or re-engaging your child in an activity or sport outside of school

For many kids, participating in activities such as scouts, guides, martial arts or sports gives them something to look forward to each week, an opportunity to develop social skills/ develop friendships and gives them an opportunity to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s quite common for kids to decide they don’t like an activity part way through a year or after only a couple of attempts, but don’t necessarily disregard last years attempt as something they won’t like for ever. Maybe sit down and have discuss a couple of ideas for this year and then go and organise to just go along and watch before committing to an activity. Choosing something that matches your child’s strengths and interests is often importantChanges Psychology extra curricular activities