What is “resilience”?
Resilience is the ability to adapt and cope with stress and changes.
It is important to keep in mind that externally, there may not be any obvious life stress. Some of us are more likely to have unhelpful thought patterns that cause us internal stress, conflict and turmoil. For instance, this can be worries that we may fail, not meet high expectations of ourselves or that people will not like us.
When faced with life’s challenges, if we feel helpless, inadequate and cannot foresee any hope this can lead to anxiety, depression and unhelpful behaviours (such as comfort-eating, avoiding facing problems and not problem-solving, withdrawing from people, refusing to go to school, temper outbursts and irritability, refusal of activities such as schoolwork) or medically-unexplainable physical symptoms. To the extreme extent, some kids and adults hurt themselves or do not see any point in living.
Research suggests that building resilience in children reduces the risk of violence, bullying, substance abuse, mental illness, suicide, school dropout and counteracts the effects of social disadvantage and promotes academic performance. The Building Resilience book series rhyme to increase phonological awareness and makes it fun for young readers.
As a community, I believe that we all need to work together to educate these essential life skills. Schools, parents, health professionals, community organisations and media need to stand united to build stronger future generations. Treating emotional and social problems when they have already developed is more difficult than preventing it. We need to be teaching resilience skills to our children early in life.
How can resilience be developed?
- Nurture independence
- Turn problems into learning opportunities and positive lessons
- Promote problem-solving skills
- Learning communication, social skills, compassion, helping others
Children learn by “role-modelling” (seeing the caregivers’ behaviour) and by being actively taught and practising helpful skills, such as independence.
As caregivers, it is important to demonstrate love, kindness, warmth, empathy (putting yourself in others’ shoes), problem-solving, constructive communication, and assertiveness (rather than aggression or passive-aggression).
Praise your child for any helpful behaviour. Encourage your child to do as much he/she can independently. Break it into steps by asking your child what the next step is.
Be consistent with your rules, boundaries and expectations. This makes children feel safer.
Building Resilience Children’s Book Series
The aim of the books are to:
- Promote mindfulness (awareness of feelings and how they relate to our thoughts, actions and situations);
- Learn to deal with life challenges and feelings in a constructive way;
- Encourage adults to identify their own challenges and to learn skills to help themselves and their children;
- Promote constructive communication between adults and children;
- Advance reading skills. Research suggests that rhyming helps to promote reading skills in young children.
The series give children, teachers and parents advice on how to deal with common situations and uncomfortable feelings. It also encourages parent-child discussion about difficult topics. There is an adult's page at the back of each book to guide adults on how to help the child with each topic.
Some topics (like certain feelings and common life events such as death) are traditionally taboo or are challenging for adults to talk about. If adults are uncomfortable talking about issues, it is even more difficult for children to discuss them or to know how to effectively cope with situations. Even feelings can be difficult to discuss for some adults. This range of books opens the communication pathways and helps children and adults to face matters without shame, embarrassment or stigma.
The books are designed to be thought-provoking and entertaining. They are aimed at 4 to 12 year old children but even adults may find them beneficial.
Each book has hidden characters in the pictures and educational activities, which add an extra dimension of fun.
To make the most of the books, it is suggested that parents discuss the book contents with the child. Thereafter, if similar feelings or situations arise in your child's life, refer back to the book characters and discuss what might be helpful in dealing with your child's situation. The more frequently this is done, your child will automatically use the strategies when faced with similar situations, in time.