We have all known families who have had to cope with adversity.
Some have dealt with tragedy.
Many cope with marital break ups, death, serious illness, job loss, poverty, violence, or being victims of crime.
Sometimes it seems that many families have to contend with more than anyone should ever have to deal with.
The family members least equipped to deal with the calamities that can occur are children. Children have not yet developed the maturity, judgement and inner strength to allow them to cope as well as adults can.
As parents, we would like to protect our children from adversity, loss, pain and fear. But even the best of parents cannot protect a child from all hard times.
How can we help our children to cope with the inevitable hardships that take place in life? All children will experience some stress of disappointment. How can we help them to grow up able to cope and function successfully, with purpose, hope, and kindness, giving them the resiliency to cope with the inevitable stresses in life? A resilient child is one that is equipped to deal with the challenges of life.
Children who are resilient have caring adults in their lives. In some cases, only one caring adult, not necessarily a parent, has made a huge difference to a child.
However, for most children, the support of family and parents is the key factor. What can parents do to promote resiliency?
• Parents can show care, concern and empathy. What may seem trivial in the adult world can be a very important to a child.
• Parents should listen to their children, actively seeking to understand and to be understood. Avoid interrupting, over-advising and directing
• Parents should show affection and caring, love and acceptance.
• Parents need to be realistic in their expectations of children, and help them to set realistic goals for themselves, that will allow for success.
• Parents can help children to be successful in tasks from simple to complex
• Parents can model and discuss how to handle mistakes, showing that mistakes are what we learn from and that everyone makes them.
• Parents can provide opportunities for children to help through giving responsibility for family well-being, through age appropriate chores and responsibilities.
• Parents can provide opportunities for children to make decisions and can model a thoughtful problem solving method, considering different actions and possible solutions.
• Parents should provide behaviour guidance in a responsive, consistent way, with realistic expectations.
• Parents should recognize and praise efforts as well as accomplishments.
• Parents should provide children with opportunities to be involved in the community, with other children, families and teachers.
Although we can’t protect our children from everything, we can give them a foundation of strength and resiliency.
Positive Parenting appears every week in LIFE. This week’s column was written by Laurie Lafortune, co-ordinator of the Understanding the Early Years program with Family Services of Central Alberta. Lafortune can be reached by calling 403-343-6400 or www.fsca.ca.