Author: Madiha Malik
Ever wonder where children get the strength to overcome and forget something that happened 10 minutes ago? Incidents happen, yet they move on like they never occurred. They demonstrate an ability that, in the process of becoming an adult, starts to disappear. As we grow, we start holding on to past incidents, overthink, and dwell on matters that begin to keep us stuck in one place. If a child who used to move on to the next activity and not make a big deal if they lost, now gets upset and cries every time they fall or make a mistake, shows us that their resilience level is going down and we need to work together to strengthen it.
In this article, we will discuss resilience, how to nurture it at home, and through strong external resources and activities.
What is resilience?
Children are naturally born to learn, adapt, and adjust to their environment. They are born with resilience, but when it is not nurtured through their environment, over time, it begins to weaken and fade. Being resilient means having the ability to see through obstacles and hardships. It means to remain flexible and optimistic by holding on to your opportunities. Resilience is the ability that lets us healthily process our emotions and release them so we can continue to move forward and not relive the downfalls. Our brain can overcome adversity, and this capacity increases over time, given the right environment. Resilience allows us to feel that we have a strong emotional foundation.
How does the brain thrive in a resilience-focused environment?
Amygdala Prefrontal Cortex
Activates the stress response Controls problem solving, impulsiveness, attention, emotions
Nurturing resilience allows the brain to calm and relax the amygdala and activate the prefrontal cortex to take control of the response.
How can we nurture resilience in our children?
*Role Model: Sometimes we forget that these little humans are observing us ALL the time. So, if we cope with difficult emotions and situations constructively and stay optimistic, chances are, they will choose their actions wisely too. When they see us reaching out to ask for help and connecting with our support system in times of need, they will learn to take charge of their life as well.
*Scaffolding: This is when the adults support children during an activity or a learning process, then slowly step back to allow the child to experiment and explore with confidence. As adults, we can set the foundation and encourage the children to resolve what comes their way next. Children may need us to show them how the blocks are stacked, and its okay if the tower keeps falling. As they get comfortable, they will figure out our new ways to arrange the blocks and create structures independently.
*Validation: Accepting the child’s emotions, thoughts, and mistakes will help them learn to accept themselves. Children always look for our validation, but our initial validation can lead them to validate themselves. They will slowly begin to embrace their mistakes and look at them as a learning opportunity.
*Concrete Feedback (also known as praise): When we tell a child “I noticed that you did not give up when they blocks kept falling ” or “The red and yellow flowers in your painting show your creativity,” makes them feel more confident and accomplished in their work. The effect of constructive feedback is different than a general comment such as “good job.” Concrete feedback shows them their hard work is valuable.
*Positive self-talk: Learning new skills are overwhelming, and children become worried about not completing a new task, “the right way.” We must teach them what to say to themselves when they are facing a challenge. Self-talk such as “I am strong,” “I am amazing,” and “I can do my best” lightens up their emotions and takes the pressure off. We can remind children every day to do their best because the process is always more important than the product.
*Growth Mindset: Children need to see that people, situations, emotions do not stay the same and continue to evolve. They need to know that its possible to overcome the feelings of being “stuck.” When we are given a problem, we are always given opportunities and resources to resolve it, but those resources need our efforts to be discovered and implemented.
*Trust: “You got this.” Knowing that the adults around them trust them, has such a profound impact on children’s self-esteem. It makes them feel capable and confident to face their fears and worries. Our trust in them enables them to take risks and deal with setbacks. Positive affirmations such as “I know you can do it.”, “I trust you.” “Your hard work makes me proud.”, are so meaningful and essential for children’s growth.
*Socialization: It is very important for children to have friendships that share common values and beliefs. Our children need to stay connected to the masjid, so they can form those friendships. These friendships can become a part of their support system because they can all relate to and understand each other’s concerns.
What are some resources outside of the home that can cultivate resilience?
Boxing: teaches life skills such as discipline, self-defense, confidence, social development, and much more.
Yoga: improves concentration, focus, memory, and builds positive self-esteem. Yoga reduces anxiety and the fight and flight response during stress. It can also alleviate the physiological reaction of the body because of chronic stress.
Swimming: builds confidence, cognitive functioning, strengthens muscles, and improves social skills. The release of endorphins (happy chemicals) decreases stress and makes them feel happier.
Running: Running around is probably is the easiest of all, but we can make it more intentional and meaningful. It gives children a sense of achievement, a sense of reward, freedom, and builds perseverance.
Journal Writing: helps to organize their thoughts and ideas, sort through their feelings, and set productive goals. Through journals, children learn to motivate themselves and clear up their minds when too much is happening around them. We can teach our children how to write journals to get the most benefits.
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