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As a dad, anytime my children are faced with a difficult circumstance, challenging situation, hear a “no” when they were hoping for a “yes”, feeling a sense of disappointment, loss or failure, my first reaction is a strong desire to “fix it”. I think most parents can relate. It breaks our hearts to see our children struggle with the various challenges that life throws their way so the immediate and natural response is that we want to protect our kids and just make everything better. If we do that though, we are missing amazing teaching moments with our kids. Each of these challenging moments are opportunities to build resiliency in our children. They are opportunities to teach our kids to persevere and not give up. They are opportunities to teach problem solving, communication, and foster a growth mindset. They are are opportunities for our students to learn how to process emotion and build the skills they need to succeed for their future.
So how do we seize these moments? Probably the most important thing is to make the time to make the connection. It is important that our kids know we are there for them and that their performance, behaviour, and choices are not tied to our love… it is unconditional. But, what do we say in those moments? Here are some potential conversation starters to have with your children the next time they are facing something difficult.
- How are you feeling? It is important to acknowledge and validate our children’s feelings. Although, sometimes it can seem trivial to an adult it can mean the whole world to the child. If we dismiss it as trivial our children will learn that their feelings cannot be trusted with us.
- Never say can’t – The words we say gives insight into our thinking and can be a predictor of our future actions. The word “can’t” can stop our children from trying. Check out this inspirational video about Jennifer Bricker – Never Say Can’t.
- If your friend was going through this, what advice would you give? We can’t always choose the circumstances that life throws our way, but we can always choose our response. Help your child focus on the things they can control and have influence over, not the things out of their control.
- What can you learn from this? What did you do well? What can you improve? Did you try your best? Talking through and reflecting upon the lessons that can be learned from the experience will not only help with their disappointment, it encourages them to try again. Help them identify what they would do differently next time. It builds confidence that prepares them for the future.
- What’s next? What now? Help your child look for other opportunities and to find the positives in the experience. We need to teach our children to be solution oriented not problem fixated.
- What can you be thankful for? Whatever we focus on gets magnified in our lives. Magnify the good not the bad. Perspective matters. A healthy life perspective remembers all of the positives around us in the midst of a challenging circumstance.
- What are your strengths? Reminding our children of their successes and strengths will continue to build their confidence and self-worth. It is important for them to understand that one experience does not define their identity. For example, just because I failed does not mean I am a failure. Just because I made a bad choice does not make me a bad person.
- You are good at hard things. Every child has trouble when they face a challenge or find something difficult. Our children need to learn to embrace hard work and challenging activities. “Hard” isn’t something to be afraid of or shy away from.
- You are a problem solver. Giving our children the opportunity and support to solve their own problems, not only teaches them this essential skill for their future, it also builds their self confidence. Model the patience and perseverance required to finish difficult tasks and support them by brainstorming potential solutions. The challenge is to give the support they need while still empowering them to be problem solvers.
- Share your story. If you can’t think of a personal story to share that relates to what your child is facing, share someone else’s story. It is important for our children to realize they are not alone. They are not the first to deal with this and won’t be the last. Inspiration and comfort can be found in hearing other’s stories.
What other conversation starters and ideas can you share that help build resilience in children? We would love to hear your ideas and experiences by commenting below on this post.