Our children need to have strong muscles to survive in this world. No, I’m not talking about biceps and pecs. I’m talking about the really important muscles, not the ones that will help them do chin-ups. These important muscles do more than look good and help them carry heavy grocery bags. These muscles help maintain an emotionally and relationally healthy
life. What muscles could do that? The muscles of resilience, emotional intelligence, and optimism. Like all muscles, resilience, emotional intelligence, and optimism can be trained and strengthened. Let me briefly describe each one.
- Resilience is the muscle that gives them the strength to bounce back after a difficulty. Children who develop resilience exhibit better health over time. They report greater happiness and have more success. It only makes sense, doesn’t it? When resilient people encounter a setback, they bounce back. They get back in the saddle and try again. In other words, resilience is a muscle that stabilizes persistence and promotes consistency. (Read Happy Families Bounce Back for tips on practicing resilience as a family.)
- Emotional intelligence is the muscle that helps children manage their own emotions and get along with others. Interestingly, emotional intelligence has been shown to have a greater impact on success than academic achievement. Emotional intelligence means children can manage their emotions, remain calm, and resolve conflict. It means they can better read the emotions of those around them and adjust their own behavior accordingly. It underlies the ability to influence people, build cooperation, and promote harmony. You can see why emotional intelligence seems to be a crucial muscle for successful managers, team players, CEO’s, and supervisors. Our children need this muscle to be tone and fit, relationally happy and successful. (Read When Your Children Get Angry for a process that can help you train your children’s muscle of emotionally intelligent.)
- Optimism is not about wearing rose-colored glasses. Optimism is the muscle that focuses on “what I can do” rather than “what I cannot do.” It focuses on the importance of effort to grow and learn. It also realizes most difficulties are specific to a context and situation rather than “ruining everything.” Difficulties are temporary, not permanent. With this in mind, an optimistic person looks at a difficult situation or a failure and begins to explore what aspects of the situation they can influence. Then, they set about to exert their influence and produce a change. You can see why this muscle helps to prevent depression, increases perseverance, and promotes success. (Read Growing Your Child’s Mind for Success and Build Your Child’s Success Mindset for some ideas on strengthening this muscle.)
Like I said earlier, our children can train and strengthen these three muscles under the guidance of a great coach (that would be you, their parent!). These three muscles matter more in our children’s lives than bulging biceps and six-pack abs. They will do more than look good under their t-shirt. They will help them develop emotionally and relationally healthy lives. As parents, we can help them develop each one. We can help them build them into a strong, balanced lifestyle. Read the links in this blog for some ideas on building these muscles; then, read our blogs over the next couple weeks to learn more way you can help your children build strong muscles or resilience, emotional intelligence, and optimism!
I have heard people say “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” I’m not sure I like that saying, but there is some truth in it. Not only will it you stronger, it will make you happier as well. That’s right. Happy people are resilient people. Happy people bounce back. They learn from adversity and grow stronger through it. That’s true for families as well as individuals. Happy families, like happy individuals, bounce back and grow from adversity. So, if you want a happy family, build a resilient family. How can you help your family develop resiliency? Try these five ideas.
- Support one another. Families that support one another have greater resiliency. Support one another in pursuing interests. Support one another through difficult circumstances. Support one another in times of joy as well. Rejoice with family members who rejoice. Weep with family members who weep. Problem solve with family members who face problems. Encourage one another. Supporting one another demands that you develop an intimate awareness of the lives of your spouse and children. So get involved.
- “Humble up” and ask for help. Model your willingness to let others help you. Let your spouse and children experience you asking them for assistance, advice, and support. Sure, you may feel vulnerable asking for that assistance. However, your spouse and children begin to see how important they are in your life and how much you value their input. They will also learn that resilient people seek out and accept help when needed. Be the role model for resilience by asking for help.
- Think straight about failure. Failure is not the end of the world; it is temporary. Failure is not the end of the road; it is the beginning of an adventure. It is a learning opportunity. As such, you can celebrate failed attempts and the lessons learned from those attempts. Celebrate the lessons learned, modify your effort, and do it again. That is bouncing back. That is resilience. That will bring greater happiness.
- Recall family stories of adversity overcome. Every family has stories about overcoming adversity: the aunt no one thought would finish school but did; the grandfather who overcame alcoholism; the mother who struggled with reading in school but eventually learned to read and now enjoys it; the father who overcame inadequate material resources to finish college…. You know the stories in your family. Share them with one another and point out the fact that overcoming is in your blood. You can bounce back just like others in your family have bounced back.
- Celebrate family victories. Victory means much more than success. In fact, the greatest victories may come in the face of obstacles and seem like “just getting by” at first. However, on further observation you will find that these times of “just getting by” laid the groundwork for greater victories to come. So, celebrate when family members overcome difficulties. Celebrate when family members put effort into some pursuit. Celebrate “come back” experiences, effort invested, and attempts made (whether “successful” or not). Celebrating these experiences is celebrating resilience!
These five tips can help your family develop the resiliency to bounce back to happiness. For more ideas to develop family happiness, see:
One of the best gifts we can give our children is the ability to bounce back from failure, to overcome adversity, and to remain persistent in the face of disappointment. In a word, giving the gift of resiliency can impact a child’s life forever! What does a child need to develop resiliency? Here are some ideas.
· Resiliency begins with close family ties. Resilient children feel secure in their family relationships. They feel accepted and valued by their family. Even though they may express some interests different than their family, they know that family members accept them and cherish them. Take time for your children. Learn about their interests and abilities. Show an interest in what they think and do.
· Resilient children develop a sense of competence. Parents can help their children develop a sense of competence by accepting their strengths and giving them opportunities to develop those strengths. If they like music, give them opportunities to play or sing. If they like sports, get them involved in athletic activities. If they like to cook or draw or do scientific experiments, seek out opportunities for them to meet people with similar interests and become involved in related activities. Keep these activities fun. Do not push them beyond their desire. Let them guide the intensity of their involvement.
· Resilient children have a healthy self-confidence. Interestingly, confidence grows when we overcome obstacles and persevere in spite of difficulties and disappointments. Confidence grows when we learn to view adversity, struggle, and even failure as information about how to improve. Allow your child to experience disappointments and setbacks. Encourage them in their struggle to overcome those setbacks. Express confidence in their abilities to do so. Encourage their effort and point out specific areas in which you see improvement.
· Resilient children develop a strong moral character. They learn right from wrong and recognize the consequences of both. They develop compassion for others and practice kindness toward others. Resilient children learn that a life of honesty and integrity is not always easy, but always best. When your child does something wrong, do not bail them out. Allow them to suffer the consequences of their misbehavior. Trust that they can and will learn from those consequences to behave better in the future.
· Resilient children know that they make a unique and needed contribution to the world around them. God has endowed each child with a unique purpose. It may or may not be a visible to others; but, it is a vital purpose nonetheless. You can help your children discover their purpose in several ways. Provide opportunities to serve others. Help your children understand that many people in the world struggle to obtain basic life necessities. Provide opportunities to participate in volunteer work. Provide opportunities for your children to contribute to maintaining your home. All of these activities and more can help a child learn that they make an important contribution to our world.
· Resilient children cope effectively with stress. They learn to view challenges as opportunities for growth. Children learn effective coping skills by watching their parents; so, learn to practice and model good coping skills yourself. You can not only model effective coping skills, but you can coach your child in practicing those skills as well. Childhood and adolescence are filled with opportunities to learn coping skills.
Resilient children bounce back from failure, overcome adversity, and remain persistent in the face of disappointment. They thrive, even in the midst of difficulties. The most important ingredient in helping your child develop resiliency is you! Your active presence in their life, your loving affection, your healthy modeling, and your unconditional acceptance will give your children the wonderful gift of resiliency!