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The Importance of Developing Resiliency

As practising psychologists we often have parents and children presenting to us with complex problems, where parents are unsure of their exact therapy goals. Most often I hear from both parents and teachers alike that they are deeply concerned about our children and teenagers, and how they are managing and coping with the pressures of modern living. Research shows there is declining health and wellbeing in our young people — increasing numbers of who are succumbing to depression, emotional instability, mental illnesses, obesity, and low educational and social competence.

Today’s children are struggling. Many of the pressures that children and teenagers are struggling with are hidden, as they encompass our everyday lives now. Some examples of these hidden pressures are mobile phones, the Internet, and even TV. These once luxurious and unattainable technologies are now everywhere, school, home, the bus, and even planes! Most people in a modern 21st Century first world country have access to one if not all of these things. Although beneficial in many ways, it creates quite the challenge when trying to raise resilient children. Why you may ask?  Before the era of technology many of these items were unattainable, and if attainable it required the family, child or teenager to save and wait for the thing they desired. For instance the very experience of having to save for something or wait for it makes the receiving of what is desired so much sweeter. Research has shown that delayed gratification is seen as key quality needed to create emotionally mature persons.

This generation has immediate access to nearly everything and the temptations that it brings; this is before they even have the maturity to manage the full consequences of their actions. These are attributes of motional intelligence. We now know more than ever before how the human brain develops and grows, and this has massive implications for parents and parenting. 

What is resilience?

Resilience refers to one’s ability to successfully manage life and to successfully adapt to change and stressful events in both healthy and constructive ways. In simplistic terms, it is our survivability and “bounce-back-ability” to life experiences and that means both the really advantageous ones as well as the really challenging, traumatic ones.

Young people have always needed effective coping skills, however the modern landscape has become even more challenging than ever before, and it appears that many young people have fewer resources to deal with adversity than in previous generations.

Our main concerns today involve the increasing numbers of our young who are anxious, stressed, aggressive, depressed, suicidal and engaging in maladaptive coping strategies such as substance abuse and anti-social behaviour. Even younger children are engaging in maladaptive coping strategies. What we often see are young children who just cant cope, specifically with negative affect and internalise many of their experiences as meaning something negative about themselves, rather then seeing it as an experience to learn and adapt from.

The importance of developing resilience in childhood is essential for parents to understand and help develop. Understanding the importance of resiliency will offer insights into how to protect our children from the damaging effects of the pressures of our increasingly chaotic and changing world. Every parent reading this blog will relate to the idea that homework, especially in primary school is not what it used to be. It is complex, it is a lot, and it is now a more competitive environment. The pressures to perform at school are increasing, not to mention the social pressures children face, to be liked and seen as “special” or “good enough” by their peers is ongoing.

Resilience should be seen as the underlying foundation when parenting all children. Creating and teaching resiliency is a process that should direct our interactions with our children as we strengthen their ability to meet life’s challenges and pressures with confidence and perseverance. We want to teach our children to get back up on the horse, to not internalise every experience as negative. Without resiliency children have low and poor self-concepts.

While some parents try and avoid their children having negative experiences it is actually much needed.  A child needs to experience disappointment, challenge, failure and a lack of boundaries to fully develop the specific interpersonal, personal and social skills that are needed for people to live in communities. They also need to learn to develop their own voice, and age-dependent moments of autonomy where they get to have a sense of control over their life. (However, too much will lead to overindulgent, permissive and unpleasantly challenging behaviour that will create conflict and distress).

Young children need scaffolding and help in learning how to manage strong negative feelings. They also need to practice and be taught how to communicate their needs to significant adults. Unmet needs are the main driver for inappropriate behaviour in children – therefore helping them understand what need is unmet is unbelievably important for now and in later life. This is where children learn the difference between assertiveness, passivity and aggression.

We as adults have a toolkit of life skills that we have learnt throughout our lives through experience. Children on the other hand have an imaginary toolkit hanging off their shoulder. A simple metaphor to remember in building resilience in children is the more tools in their toolkit, the more resilient they will be.

At MindMovers Psychology we help not only build your child’s toolkit, but we also teach them to develop self compassion by harnessing their strengths and developing their perception of their growth edges. We know the importance of resiliency development, so much so, each one of our programs has built in modules that not only look at resiliency skills and development, but target each child’s strengths and characteristics to help them learn to rely less on the external forces and factors (such as doing well in tests, friends being nice to them, wining awards) and rely and believe more in themselves as real human beings who will have many up and down experiences in life. We have seen first hand the powerful change that occurs in a child’s mind when they realise they are the only ones who can control their lives, whether that be their perspectives, thoughts, feelings or behaviours. 

Children are not coping well with the new modern day landscape, while the world has changed and rapidly grown, a child’s brain development trajectory has stayed the same, this is something that cannot be “speed up”. We now need to teach our children about resiliency and help them develop this much needed survival skill, without it in their toolkit our children we not cope now and when they become adults in the future.

For more information about our group programs that involve resiliency modules please contact us at info@mindmoverspsychology.com.au

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