Category Archives: Social Skills

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

How to regulate a child’s emotions and behaviour

Children are generally less able to regulate, or control, their emotional expression and behaviour than adults.

Changes Psychology regulate emotions and behaviourEveryone 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, especially with children.  This is due to brain development,  is age related and also dependant on the levels of resilience the child has.

However, supportive adults can help children express their emotions and associated behaviours in socially acceptable ways and improve a child’s resilience and ability to deal with things better now and in the future.

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.

Promoting resilience -making decisions

 When our children struggle we often want to try and fix things for them

However doing this all the time can undermine our child’s belief in their own ability to make decisions and confidence in their problem solving skills. The ability to problem solve and make decisions is paramount in life as humans are constantly faced with choices  and challenges. The ability to solve their own problems is a huge part of resilience for kids.Changes psychology- making decisions

When your child is faced with a problem, listen to their perspective on the issue and let them know you are willing to help and support them before looking for solutions.

 

Problem solving involves a few basic steps that you can help your child to learn and implement:

  • Define the problem – it is very difficult to manage an issue if your child (or you) are unclear as to what the problem actually is. Also consider whether your child needs or wants to do anything about this problem
  • Brainstorm ideas to deal with this problem – write down any ideas no matter how silly they seem.
  • Look at each idea and discuss what might happen if your child did each idea.
  • Encourage your child to choose which ideas he or she may like to try out. Support your child in picking out a few ideas.
  • Encourage your child to put their chosen ideas into practice – try the first idea, see if it works. If not, try the second idea (and so on).

The fact is that kids learn to make decisions by making decisions, not by following directions~ Alfie Kohn

If your child seems stuck on choosing poor ideas, offer gentle guidance by helping them to think about the potential consequences of their actions. As your child practices these problem solving steps, he or she will become more confident in making decisions for themselves, and willing to try out their ideas knowing that they have backup plans if things don’t turn out as expected. And that fosters resilience as they know they can try things another way.

Read more: How to regulate a child’s emotions and behaviour

 

Resilient children and flexible routines

Routines that allow flexibility are a good way to create resilient children.

Routines are important for children as they provide a sense of predictability in an otherwise unpredictable world. Routines also facilitate a sense of control and independence as children know what is expected, know how to complete tasks  ask for help, and learn to manage their actions within a set pattern of activities to be done.

Changes Psychology Chore chart family chore chartRoutines can provide much comfort in times of distress, again because your child knows what to expect and what comes next, helping with their resilience or ability to continue on and cope with the situation. 


Encourage your child to be involved in establishing routines within the family, e.g. what needs to be done in the mornings before school?

Making the list of tasks into a visual chart can be helpful for both yourself and your child as it makes the routine easy to refer to and can be personalised to encourage a sense of ownership and adherence.

 

For routines to be most effective, they need to be able to have some flexibility too.

Changes Psychology Flexible routinesWe can’t always predict what is going to happen on a daily basis and life will throw challenges our way, and at our kids too! So helping our children to understand that, and experience some flexibility rather than being stuck in rigidity, teaches them that it is a positive skill to be able to adapt to changes and go with the flow and fosters resilience.

 

 

Read More: Resilience and regulating emotions

Kids build resilience by helping

When kids help us around the house, at school, or help others, they build resilience.

Adults can help children build their feelings of confidence, competence and usefulness, and boost their belief that they can handle challenges by encouraging our children to help others.

 Changes Psychology Family to do listPromote helping behaviours and resilience within the family by identifying activities, chores, or responsibilities that are age-appropriate for your children to participate in. This may include allocating jobs to certain family members, such as setting the table, or feeding the dog,  and formalising this by having it written down for everyone to refer to.

Or, helping behaviours can be encouraged on a spontaneous basis depending on the situation, e.g. “Suzy, can you please help me bring the groceries into the house?”

When children have a sense of connection with others , as described in an earlier blog,  they are more likely to want to be involved in helping.

By giving our children the impression that we believe they can be useful and make a contribution, we are empowering them, promoting self-help skills, problem solving abilities, and independence, which in turn boosts resilience.

Encourage children to help others outside the family also. Brainstorm with kids ways they can be of assistance at school, at extra-curricular activities, within the community (a.g. age-appropriate volunteer work). Providing children with opportunities to help encourages a sense of responsibility and usefulness that children can tap into when they are faced with difficulties in life – the belief that I am useful and capable and can cope.

Changes Psychology Children helping

 

Read More: Resilient kids and flexible routines

Resilient kids need caring and competent adults

Children need adults in their lives to whom the child can rely upon, feel valued by, and be confident they can obtain support from when needed.

Such adults can include parents, grandparents, teachers, neighbours, sports coaches, aunts, uncles, older siblings, and close family friends. 

Changes Psychology Competent adult resilient kids

Having appropriate caring adults provides the child with someone he or she can model resilient behaviours off. That is, when a child sees the way adults competently handle situations, that child is learning effective ways to also manage stressful situations. Try to model a “can do” attitude to situations you face yourself, and your child will be more confident in following this positive attitude.

In addition to modelling coping behaviours, supportive adults can help build our child’s resilience by listening to them. Children feel validated and worthy when adults listen with empathy, consider the child’s perspective, and acknowledge the child’s feelings about situations.

By reflecting on your child’s view of the world before looking for solutions, we can help them to understand that their feelings are ok, they are worthy and valued, and it is normal to react to stressful situations. When adults jump in to fix a situation for a child or give advice we undermine our childrens’ belief that they can cope with challenges, and their subsequent ability to bounce back from difficulties.

Changes Psychology mum and kid readingOur children are going to make mistakes at times, but with supportive adults who help guide their decisions rather than lecture or punish, children are able to learn from those mistakes in a positive way. When your child feels that you understand them, you can then ask them how they think you can help. Adults can encourage children to strategise ways to manage situations and help guide our children in making effective choices for action without taking over the decision making process.

 

Read more: Kids build resilience by helping

How family and community create resilience in kids

Resilience in our children ultimately will be something that comes from within themselves, but our support and that of the support networks around them will aid that growth and offer them ongoing places for advice, guidance and help.

Obtaining support from other people and experiencing some predictability in life promotes resilience by building a child’s sense of being valued, competent and  having some control over situations that may arise.

Humans are naturally sociable creatures and helping our children connect with other people strengthens resilience by providing the opportunity for social support and the belief that such support is available when needed.

  • It can be helpful to discuss with your child who they identify as people they can access support from and how they would get the assistance they need in various situations.

    • Changes Psychology- resilience in children supportEncourage your child to pick at least five people then assign each person to a finger or thumb on one hand. This can help your child remember who those support people are, e.g. my teacher is my pointer finger.

 

 

 

  • Role play various scenarios with your child to help them figure out who they would contact for support, how they would contact them, what they would say to explain the situation, etc. This can help build your child’s confidence in managing situations that may arise.

 

  • Changes Psychology sports teamEncourage your child to be a friend in order to make and keep friends. Being involved in social, sporting, cultural, school, or spiritual events and groups can also promote a child’s sense of belonging, self worth, and belief that they are surrounded by people who will support them when in need.

 

 

 

Read more:  Resilient kids need competent adults

 

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