While it’s natural to want to shield your child from disappointments, sadness, and anger, children learn valuable lessons when they experience that difficult situations are part of life. Although it’s not always easy, children can recover from these moments either on their own or with an adult’s support, and they will learn valuable lessons along the way.
Why Is Resiliency Important?Everyone suffers emotional injuries while growing up – it’s normal to experience disappointment, frustration, criticism, and exclusion by peers. As part of healthy development, kids need to know that these moments of anxiety, sadness, and anger are temporary and can be repaired. Disappointments in themselves and in others are part of life, and difficult feelings and unfairness don’t last forever.
Tips for Parents to Raise Resilient Kids
- Let kids experience adversity. A child who’s caringly supported through — but not shielded from — adversity becomes a stronger child (and a stronger adult) who’s more empathetic as others face similar stresses.
- Allow “micro-failures.” Parents must be willing to let their children fall and pick themselves up. Making mistakes while young is essential to a child’s ability to overcome larger adversities later in life, and parents must resist the urge to intervene and rescue.
- Participate sparingly in the “congratulatory culture.” When kids receive glowing praise for everything they do, they’re deprived of authentic feedback. They can become cynical or doubtful about their abilities.
- Don’t overindulge. It’s okay for kids not to get everything they want or everything their friends have. They may have to earn some of the material things they desire or the privileges they seek. And it’s okay for kids to have to wait or prove they’re responsible.
- Love them unconditionally. Parents must love who their children are, not what their children do. They must love them even if they make a B-minus and even if they don’t make the travel team.
- Help your kids develop a skill or talent. While the differences between kids who have one, two, three, or more areas of interest and accomplishment are negligible, the difference between kids with one talent and none are significant. Adults should open as many doors as possible for kids to explore various interests and to proactively nurture at least one athletic, artistic, academic, or other area of talent the child can be proud of while growing up.
Watch Out for these Warning Signs in Kids
While it's normal for young people to experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, there are warning signs of more serious issues, identified in the acronym FACTS:
- Feelings: Expressing hopelessness about the future.
- Actions: Displaying severe/overwhelming pain or distress.
- Changes: Showing worrisome behavior cues or marked changes in behavior (including withdrawal from friends or changes in social activities), anger or hostility, or changes in sleep patterns.
- Threats: Talking about, writing about, or making plans for suicide.
- Situations: Experiencing stressful situations including those that involve loss or change, create personal humiliation, or involve getting into trouble at home, in school, or with the law. These types of situations can serve as triggers for suicide.
One Group That's Helping: Hope4Utah
In 2005, suicide prevention expert Greg Hudnall, EdD, implemented peer-to-peer HOPE Squads in schools in Provo, Utah, to change the district’s approach to suicide prevention. HOPE Squads are student groups trained to identify suicide warning signs in their peers and alert adults to those signs. Dr. Hudnall founded Hope4Utah on the proven success of the peer-to-peer Hope Squad model he pioneered in the Provo City School District.
The program has gained national attention from the U.S. Surgeon General and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and it has spread throughout Utah and into Alaska, North Carolina, Texas, Wyoming, Indiana, and Oklahoma. In 2016 alone, HOPE Squads referred more than 1,800 kids for professional help, and more than 200 were hospitalized.