Being a teenager is hard work. It is a period of significant physical, emotional and psychological change as children transition to young adulthood. During these years, adolescents are faced with numerous social, emotional and moral challenges, which they often find hard to negotiate given that they are still learning how to manage strong emotions and their brains are in a period of significant development.
What is Resilience?
Resilience is our ability to “bounce back” from life’s experiences. It is about adapting to circumstances that can’t be changed, and one’s ability to become strong, healthy, happy and successful again after being faced with challenges and setbacks.
Why do we need to be resilient?
Life is filled with challenges, particularly during the teenage years as this is a period where they are negotiating the path to independence, developing their identity and facing new and different experiences when transitioning into adulthood. As such, building resilience in an important part of adolescent development.
Some of the common challenges that teenagers face include:
*Failing an exam
*Not getting into a university course / job / apprenticeship
*Death or illness in the family
*Losing a job
*Conflict with friends
Those who are resilient are able to manage the stress and challenges associated with the aforementioned events in a positive and pro-social manner, learning from the experiences and developing important skills as a consequence. Research has indicated that when faced with challenges, teenagers who have poor resilience tend to:
* Have increased mental health problems such as Depression and Anxiety
* Increased Drug and alcohol use
* Relationship problems (peers, teachers and family)
* Under achieve at school / work / hobbies
* Have poor self-esteem and confidence issues
* Don’t reach their potential or achieve goals in later life
Helping your teenager to become more resilient
Parents can’t prevent their children from experiencing tough times or challenges, however they play an integral role in helping them to become more resilient. Furthermore, the earlier the child learns skills for resilience, the more positive the outcomes.
Below are some important tips that can assist you and your child with building resilience.
Remain positive and optimistic
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Remain positive and optimistic
Positive thinking doesn’t mean ignoring the problem, instead it means understanding that setbacks are transient and that you possess the skills and abilities to combat the challenges that are being faced. Encourage your child to use positive self-talk such as “I’ve got this” or “I can manage this, I know I can” and encourage them to remain hopeful and positive that things will improve.
Esteem – building a positive self-esteem
Research shows that having a good self-esteem plays an important role in coping with stress and recovering from difficult events. Remind your child of their strengths and abilities, and focus on how they can use these skills to solve their problems. Ensure your child is surrounded by people who promote their self-esteem and have positive beliefs in their abilities. Teenagers are often uncertain about themselves, so having people encouraging them and pointing out their strengths goes a long way in giving them a boost!
Support – build a strong social network
Resilience in children is built on a foundation of strong supportive and loving relationships with others. Make sure your child is surrounded by people who they feel comfortable to approach and who they know will support them. This may include friends, family, teachers, mentors, sport’s coaches, psychologists. While these people don’t make the issue go away, they provide support, understanding and may be able to give suggestions on ways to move forward.
Having a sense of belonging is important for a teenagers’ self-esteem and sense of identity. Encourage your child to get involved in hobbies, sporting and community groups outside of the school and family setting. This involvement will help them to form positive and supportive connections, and will give them opportunities to develop skills such as team work, conflict resolution and cooperation, and will give them a sense of belonging. Encouraging your child to have dreams and “bucket lists” will also help with them having a sense of purpose and some things to focus on in the future if faced with challenges in the short term.
Laughing and using humour can transform your emotional state! Not only does it stimulate endorphins and create a sense of well being, but it also increases the amount of Serotonin in the brain. When things get tough, it is easy for teenagers to dwell on the negatives.. so encourage them to try to use humour and laughter as a coping strategy to lighten up serious moments.
As a parent, it is natural to want to help and protect your children whenever you can. However by doing this every time your child faces a challenge, you are preventing them from developing important skills in resilience, problem solving, and emotional regulation. Allow your child to take the lead (if willing) and be there as a strong support along the way. The earlier your child can master these skills, they will feel more confident and effective at managing challenges in the future.
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Before giving your child suggestions when they are faced with a challenge, encourage them to problem solve themself. Problem solving is an important skill to learn and will assist in all aspects of your child’s life.
At first you can prompt your child with the following questions, and then later they may be able to do the process themselves.
During times of stress, it is often the case that people neglect themselves and have poor self-care. Loss of appetite, poor sleep patterns, isolating self from others and substance misuse are all common reactions to a crisis situation – however tend to exacerbate the emotional and physical distress related to the issue. Encourage your child to look after themself – eat healthy, regular meals; get plenty of sleep; exercise regularly; stay connected with supportive people; stay mentally healthy by getting involved in hobbies and speaking to supports.
Encourage your child to create and maintain goals to overcome problems. Brainstorming and using problem solving skills may assist with this. It is also important for your child to have longer term life goals as well. If they are future focussed and have things that they want to achieve in the future, it can help them stay focussed on what is important and to move past difficult more immediate situations they may face.
Encourage your child to be flexible and adaptable, as this will assist them to manage unexpected situations if they arise. If faced with changes and challenges, encourage them to step back and have a think about how they need to adjust their expectations and plans to go in a new direction. This new direction may be a positive thing for your child and resilient people can adapt and thrive with new opportunities.
Resilience is important in order to overcome and thrive following challenging life events. It often requires long-term consistent commitment to develop this skill but has the potential to assist an individual to live a happy and fulfilled life despite its challenges.
If you would like to know more about building resilience, or feel your child may need some support, you can contact Lauren on 0404 288 308.
Cove, E., Eiseman, M., & Popkin, S. J. (2005). Resilient children: Literature review and evidence from the HOPE VI Panel Study. Washington, DC: The
Resnick, M. (2000). Protective factors, resiliency and healthy youth development. Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, 11(1), 157-164
Zaff, J. F., Calkins, J., Bridges, L. J., & Margie, N. G. (2002). Promoting positive mental and emotional health in teens: Some lessons from research. Retrieved July 15, 2016, from http://www.childtrends.org/Files//Child_Trends-2002_09_01_RB_PositiveTeenHealth.pdf