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Do you ever wonder how to go about helping children build resilience? It is something I have been thinking about lately. In the late spring I was in Chicago for some meetings. A friend and I were taking an evening stroll down Millionaire Mile. As we passed a doorway I noticed a Mother with her young daughter. They were sitting together with the child nestled between her Mother’s legs. They were both leaning back and staring vacantly off into space. I looked at that little girl. Her brown eyes wide and unseeing. All I could think of was – what is going to happen to this little girl.
I had a hard time sleeping that night, all snugged up in my hotel room. With a fully stocked mini bar, a full stomach and the means to purchase whatever I needed including the charging cord for my phone, which I chronically forget when traveling. I went back the next morning to give them money for breakfast and they were gone. However, I am still haunted by those brown, vacant eyes.
There are so many children that suffer this kind of trauma from an early age. Poverty brings it’s own issues and when you add in the racial bias and disparities the trauma only worsens. But, hope is not lost for the children who suffer. There are things that can be done to build resilience in all children.
Five Tips for building resilience in children
- Allow children to have a nurturing relationship with a trusted adult. This can be a parent, a teacher or another caregiver. All children need the stability of someone they can count on to be there for them. That one relationship that will help them develop the vital coping skills necessary to carry them forward.
- Teach children relaxation techniques. A relaxed, comfortable position. A repetitive word or phrase and deep breathing are some easy tools that even young children can learn.
- Give children plenty of opportunity for exercise. It is pretty common knowledge that exercise reduces stress and now research tells us that it helps to reorganize the brain. So not only does exercise alleviate stress but it increases the neurons that are directly responsible for managing anxiety.
- Teach children to be optimistic. Help children understand how to reframe situations to see a more positive view. Guide conversations with questions such as, what is the best thing that happened to you today?
- Help them build their problem solving capability. This may mean asking guided questions such as what has worked for you before? Or, it could mean role modeling appropriate self talk. Giving them a solid foundation for building and strengthening their skills at solving problems will give them confidence.
Not all children suffer from trauma, however all children can benefit from learning resiliency. Kids who learn these skills have a better chance at being able to balance their emotions during stressful times. It will also help them alleviate future mental health issues when they are older.
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