With summer approaching, we would typically encourage parents to ensure their children are reading, writing, and practicing math skills to maintain academic momentum. While it’s still important for children to hone academic skills over the summer, this year – after two years of disruptions and heightened anxiety – children need help to regain the confidence, assurance, and independence required to thrive.
Children need unstructured time for free play – not behind a screen but in the backyard playing with friends, at the beach building a sandcastle, or at the park. They need social interactions with peers so they can negotiate the rules of a game, take turns, develop empathy for others, and solve problems on their own.
Life has been pretty serious for kids the past couple of years. They need to experience joy, laugh, and just have fun.
Resilience goes beyond perseverance. It is the ability to process and bounce back from life’s disappointments and challenges, and it is a skill that children develop over time. How can we help our children develop resilience?
- Let your children do things for themselves. Children feel competent and develop confidence when they can accomplish tasks independently.
- Allow your child to make some decisions on their own. Give two or three choices that you are willing to abide by and let your child choose.
- Allow your child to be a part of household responsibilities. Contributing to jobs at home gives a child purpose, helps them feel valued in the family, and develops autonomy.
Provide opportunities to succeed and fail
- Don’t come to the rescue. By automatically fixing problems for children, we communicate doubt in their ability to resolve them.
- Give children space to fail and make mistakes without judgment. It’s okay to feel bad when something doesn’t go well. That’s how we learn. But we can’t give up just because something didn’t turn out as expected. Help your child build resilience for failure by encouraging effort, perseverance, and creative problem-solving. Introduce the power of YET when your child becomes discouraged. “You don’t know how to ride your bike without training wheels … yet.”
- Make sure praise is genuine and specific. They know when we are just giving compliments to make others feel better. Insincere praise actually causes children to feel less secure in their abilities.
- Allow children to see your mistakes and failures. This is an opportunity to model resilience when your child sees how you cope with setbacks.
Teach emotional regulation and strengthen emotional connections
- Identify your child’s emotion, talk about how it feels, acknowledge their perspective, and listen. You don’t need to fix uncomfortable feelings.
- Teach coping skills, such as breathing techniques, talking it out, or exercising.
- Encourage your child to be optimistic by reframing to help your child see the positive.
- Spend uninterrupted one-on-one time with your child. Secure and caring relationships give children a safe environment to seek guidance as they develop skills to cope with disappointments and challenges.
Stress and adversity are natural parts of life, and joy should be as well. By fostering resilience and autonomy in our kids, we help them develop lifelong skills to face challenges confidently and with strength.
Rhonda Bennett & Charlotte Scholl
Battle Ground Academy
Dr. Rhonda Bennett is the Head of the Lower School at Battle Ground Academy (BGA) and Charlotte Scholl is the Lower School Dean of Students and Counselor at Battle Ground Academy. BGA is a co-educational, independent, college preparatory school for grades K-12 in Franklin. As the educational leader in Williamson County since 1889, BGA ignites and nurtures student curiosity, intellect and character. Learn more at battlegroundacademy.org.