10 tips for raising resilient kids

April 22, 2015
Margarita Tartakovsky


Resilience can be taught, says Lynn Lyons, a psychotherapist who co-authored the book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children.

Lyons encourages parents to equip their kids with the skills to handle the unexpected. Here are her suggestions for raising resilient kids.

1. Don’t accommodate every need.

Whenever we try to provide certainty and comfort, we are getting in the way of children being able to develop their own ­problem-solving and mastery. Overprotecting kids only fuels their anxiety.

2. Avoid eliminating all risk.

Naturally, parents want to keep their kids safe, but eliminating all risk robs kids of learning resiliency.

The key is to allow appropriate risks and teach your kids essential skills. Giving kids age-appropriate freedom helps them learn their own limits.

3. Teach them to problem-solve.

Engage your child in figuring out how to handle challenges. Give him the opportunity, over and over, to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

4. Teach your kids concrete skills.

Focus on the specific skills your child will need to learn in order to handle certain situations. Ask yourself, “Where are we going with this [situation]? What skill do they need to get there?” For instance, a shy child might need to be taught how to greet someone and start a ­conversation.

5. Avoid “why” questions.

“Why” questions aren’t helpful in promoting problem-solving. Ask “how” questions instead. For example: “You left your bike out in the rain, and your chain rusted. How will you fix that?”

6. Don’t provide all the answers.

Rather than providing your kids with every answer, start using the phrase “I don’t know,” “followed by promoting problem-solving.” Using this phrase helps kids learn to tolerate uncertainty and think about ways to deal with potential challenges.

7. Avoid talking in catastrophic terms.

Pay attention to what you say to your kids and around them. Anxious parents, in particular, tend to talk very catastrophically around their children. For instance, instead of saying “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim,” they say, “It’s really important for you to learn how to swim because it’d be devastating to me if you drowned.”

8. Let your kids make mistakes.

Letting kids mess up is tough and painful for parents, but it helps kids learn how to fix slip-ups and make better decisions next time.

9. Help them manage their emotions.

Emotional management is key in resilience.

Teach your kids that all emotions, such as anger and disappointment, are OK. Also, teach them that after feeling their feelings, they need to think through what they are going to do next.

10. Model resiliency.

Kids learn from observing their parents’ behaviour. Try to be calm and consistent. You cannot say to a child you want them to control their emotions, while you yourself are ­flipping out. Parenting takes a lot of practice and everyone makes mistakes, so when you do, admit it.


Condensed from an article available at http://psychcentral.com/lib/10-tips-for-raising-resilient-kids

Copyright 2015 Psych Central.com. All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission.