Earlier in the book I wrote that one of the best ways to secure our children's emotional resilience is by following an approach that focuses on normalising their behaviours and helping them to understand their feelings. After all, the way an individual interprets their feelings is a strong forecaster of their reactions and behaviours. A child's feelings and how they interact with the world has a significant impact on how they handle challenging situations. When faced with a problem a positive, confident child is likely to react by thinking, "I'm not giving up. Let me try that again". In contrast, a child with tentative or pessimistic qualities might react by thinking, "I'm stupid. I won't ever do that again" or "They shouldn't have done that! I hate them. I'll get them back worse." How an individual processes and responds to their feelings is described as the depth of their emotional resilience. Resilience has also been described as durability, emotional toughness or personal flexibility. It allows a person to re-examine, re-group their resources and bounce back despite the set back. It's seen as a measure of a person's capacity to cope, to make sense of difficulties and find constructive ways to turn it to their advantage. Emotional resilience is a highly prized quality because it positions individuals for the inevitable challenges they will face in the future.
While there are things we can do to help shape resilient attitudes and behaviours within our children we must also acknowledge that the interplay of emotion is complex and fluid. Feelings are dreadfully fickle things, waxing and waning from one setting to the next. They are triggered by all sorts of antecedents: perfectionism, fear of failure, wanting to impress, wanting to help, feeling unsafe, being confused, a response to too much pressure, inability to relate to a task, oversensitivity to past failures, peer influence, parental influence, anxiousness, depression, learning difficulties, relationship issues, learned helplessness and so on. Children, like us, have sets of feelings that can be set off by specific circumstances which in turn trigger predictable behaviours. And, these behaviours of course can be helpful or very problematic.
The result of maturational delays and learning or behavioural difficulties quickly spill from home to school once schooling begins. Despite wanting to find success at school their impulsive, anxious or dogmatic natures get in the way of healthy learning patterns and healthy ways to build friendships. One thing is for certain, each of these children long for success or to find some sort of acceptance. If you see your child's performance as awkward, difficult, undesirable or impossible, rest assured, they will also be aware of the problems. They will know that their under or over reaction is what brings disappointment and criticism from others. Yet, each of us want our children to know that what they feel is important, that experiencing a wide range of feelings is healthy and that their feelings matter to us.
Following are a few core ideas on how to help children learn to deal with their feelings. In the process, you will raise their emotional resilience.
Act the way you want your child to act
The best thing we can do for our children is to show them how to handle their feelings by aptly handling our own. It is near impossible to help children manage their feelings in healthy ways if they do not see us doing this. When we lose our temper, hit them in frustration, say disparaging comments about others, use our feelings to manipulate, or let others manipulate our feelings, our children watch and learn to do exactly the same. Do whatever it takes to keep
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