Some children are sensitive and have a low tolerance for frustration. Here are 4 things parents can do to build resilience in children.
Lucas (4) just got a new scooter which he has wanted for a very long time. He hops on it, but as soon as he has trouble balancing, he tosses it to the ground. He pronounces that he hates scooters, that he really never wanted one, and runs inside.
Highly sensitive (HS) children tend to experience more distress and give up more easily when they confront a challenging task or can’t master a new skill right away. The root cause, once again, is the vulnerability and loss of control that gets triggered very quickly in these kids.
HS children need more support to build resilience—to see that they can muscle through challenges.
4 Tips To Buid Resilience In Children
1. Avoid Solving Your Child’s Problems—Aka, Learn To Get Comfortable With Your Child’s Discomfort.
It’s a natural, human reaction not to want to see your child struggle. Your knee-jerk response may be to rescue or “fix” whatever is causing your child distress, especially when your HS child is acting as if it’s a five-alarm fire. But the fact is that learning a new skill involves feeling uncomfortable to some degree or another until we have mastered it.
Struggling is not bad or harmful to kids, it is part of the learning process. The distress they experience as they work through a challenge is what we call “positive” stress because it leads to growth.
Picture your child working on riding a bicycle. If you never let up on your hold—doing the balancing for her—your child doesn’t experience the teetering that can feel a little scary and uncomfortable, but that’s what leads her to figure out how to eventually maintain her balance and experience the incredible sense of pride when she can cruise around on her own.
When you run to the rescue, you are unintentionally sending the message that you don’t think your child is capable of mastering the challenges she faces, and that only adult can solve her problems. It also teaches her that failure is something to be feared or ashamed of, when in fact it is a critical component of the learning process.
While it is no doubt easier to swoop in like the fixer, acting as a supportive coach instead will build your child’s self-confidence and help her feel competent to work through life’s challenges.
2. Position Yourself As Your Child’s Problem-Solving Partner.
Let your child know that you have confidence in her ability to learn to solve the problems she encounters; that she can do hard things. You will always help her think through the challenges she faces and help her come up with solutions. But you won’t solve her problems for her, because that is her job.
In this vein, Seema’s parents acknowledge her frustration and let her know that when she is ready to try again, they are happy to help her work on it. They refrain from cajoling and pushing her to keep trying when they see that this is not helping and only getting her more agitated.
3. Help Your Child Think Through Creative Ways To Solve The Problem.
Start by asking your child for her ideas about what might be some solutions. Before offering your own input, be sure to ask your child if she would like to hear some of your ideas for solving the problem. Recently, at a preschool where I consult, a child fell apart because it wasn’t his turn to be the snack helper. I suggested other jobs he could do instead.