We offer seven strategies to help your child develop the benefits that come with being mentally resilient.
1. Focus on their strengths and skills
While it’s much more encouraging to be told what our talents are, everyone meets people who will tell us what we can’t do or accomplish.
For example, if they like outdoor activities, don’t say, “If you do this activity, you will definitely fall”, Koh notes. Instead, say something like, “If you want to climb, remember to use your hand-eye coordination to keep yourself secure. I know you will keep yourself safe using what you’ve learnt before.”
He adds, “Once your child becomes more confident of their skills and strengths, they are better equipped to deal with challenges in a positive manner.”
Not only will mental strength enable your child to bounce back from setbacks, it also helps them overcome new challenges, take control of their emotions and grow up to be resilient adults.
2. Help them understand their triggers
“Teach your child to be mindful of their stressors or triggers and how it affects them,” Koh suggests. “If children don’t realise what affects them, these stressors may pop up out of the blue, leading to negative emotions and consequences.”
When your child is able to identify their stressors, they can then learn to cope with them in a positive manner.
For instance, your child might have a tough time getting along with one of their classmates. As such, interactions with this classmate might cause them to lose their temper and pick a fight. When junior understands how this particular classmate triggers him, he’ll know that he needs to approach the situation calmly and rationally, or he’ll risk getting into trouble with his teachers.
3. Teach problem-solving skills
You won’t always be around to solve your child’s problems for them, so give them plenty of opportunities to hone their problem-solving skills.
If they’re having a tough time with their maths homework, don’t constantly offer solutions. Help them tackle one question and explain how a formula can be used to answer similar questions. Then, allow them to answer questions on their own.
It may also help to work together with your child to figure out strategies to handle a problem. For example, if your child is dealing with an uncooperative member during a group project, ask them to come up with at least two approaches (eg telling the teacher, or talking to the member with other groupmates), and also offer your input.
4. Be positive
While you don’t to pretend that life is always a bed of roses, a positive outlook is key to helping your child build mental strength.
Koh states, “Focusing on the positive aspects of one’s circumstances helps one take action rather than get stuck in a negative cycle of thoughts.”
Therefore, help your child turn negative events around by looking for a positive solution, or figuring out how to move on from current circumstances. As an example, if junior fails an exam, encourage him to make a plan of how he can improve and remind him that it’s not the end of the road.
“Focusing on the positive aspects of one’s circumstances helps one take action rather than get stuck in a negative cycle of thoughts.”
5. Talk about and validate their feelings
So, while a positive perspective is important, tell your child that uncomfortable emotions are perfectly normal. Label these feelings for them, and teach them how to cope with them in a healthy manner.
So, rather than use vague statements such as, “There’s no need to feel scared” or “Cheer up, things will turn out fine”, tell them that it’s okay to feel the way they do in a tough situation. Remind them that you’re there to comfort them, and that their feelings don’t have to define who they are.
6. Allow them to make mistakes
We all want the best for our children, and the urge to protect them from messing up can definitely be overwhelming.
So, let your child forget to bring their homework to school or do badly on their test if they fail to study. And avoid trying to “save” them from trouble, such as delivering their homework to them. Let them face the consequences of their actions, which will teach them to toughen up and be more responsible in future.
7. Role-model mental stamina
If your child disobeys you, avoid losing your cool, shouting at them and giving them the cold shoulder. Instead, patiently explain to your child the dos, don’ts and consequences in a calm manner, Koh says.
Also, if you find yourself unable to deal with any events or situations without flaring up, step away from your child to resolve it. Then, come back to your child in a calmer and more controlled state.
6 things mentally-strong parents don’t do
Steer clear of these if you aim to raise mentally strong kids and be a good role model:
* Avoid comparison and competition between siblings or peers. This breeds an environment of negativity, and fills your child with doubts about their own abilities.
* Don’t ignore your child and what they are trying to say. Listen to them without passing judgement and remind them that their feelings matter.
* Don’t use guilt and conditional love to parent, which will instil fear and reject.
* Don’t let your child avoid responsibility. Hold them accountable for their actions, and let them take ownership of their mistakes.
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