Bullying and cyberbullying affect kids more than ever before. But research has shown if parents focus on raising resilient kids they may be able to counteract the impact of bullying. In fact, equipping them with a solid foundation of emotional resilience is one of the best ways to help kids persevere when being bullied or when facing other difficulties.
Resilient kids have the ability to adapt to, handle and overcome difficult situations. Although many resilient kids may have some biological inclination toward resiliency, researchers have found that resiliency also can be learned.
However, keep in mind that being resilient doesn’t mean that children won’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common when kids have been bullied. It’s how they deal with that emotional pain that matters. And when kids are resilient, they will cope with bullying much more effectively than those who are not resilient.
Here are some ways to build resiliency in your children.
Make sure kids feel accepted at home. When kids consistently feel accepted for who they are, they are more able to cope with stress and adversity. No matter how different your kids are from you, they need to know that you believe in them and like who they are. Additionally, when kids feel accepted at home the issues with bullying are less debilitating because of the acceptance they already feel.
Nurture a positive self-view. Teach your children to see value in what they have to offer the world around them. Also, help them see themselves in a positive light, especially during difficult times. And allow them to see that the challenges from bullying are not a reflection of who they are but instead are choices made by bullies.
Encourage positive emotions. Encourage kids to find pleasure and humor in life. Don’t let the distractions of everyday life taint their ability to slow down and laugh. Provide opportunities for kids to relax and have fun with no schedules and commitments to worry about. Also, help them see joy even in the little things.
Teach feelings management. Kids need to learn how to calm down when they feel like they are falling apart emotionally or when they are feeling aggressive and angry. Help kids learn to recognize and name their feelings and reactions. Give them ideas on how then to manage those feelings in positive ways.
Promote problem-solving skills. One way to instill problem-solving skills is to show kids how to be flexible in their responses. For instance, when your child faces a challenge sit down with him and go over the different options for resolving the problem. Together, talk about the pros and cons of each option. And, then allow your child to choose the best course of action. He needs to know that you trust his decisions so that he can learn to solve problems without fear of failure.
Turn them toward the future. Part of ensuring our kids stay hopeful and overcome difficult situations is to orient them toward the future. Help your children see that there is a future beyond this current situation. One way to do this is to ask them to think about their goals and how they can begin accomplishing those now. For instance, if their goal is to attend a particular camp over the summer, they can begin researching the camp or doing chores to save for it. Or, if their goal is to make a sports team in the fall, they can make a plan for how they can make that happen including scheduling practice time and finding people to help them train. The key is not to keep focusing on the negative, but to see that there are other things in life including things to look forward to and work toward. Positive thinking enables your child to see the good things in life and keep going even in the most challenging situations.
Challenge any self-critical behaviors. When children have a critical inner voice, it’s important that you challenge this type of thinking. Allowing kids to believe self-criticisms can lead to any number of harmful effects. Instead, teach them how to identify negative thoughts and overcome this way of thinking. The goal is that negative self-talk would not become a habit or a way of life.
Encourage kids during new challenges. Remember, it is good for kids to try new things, especially if they present a challenge. But, be sure you are there to back them up. Try to find a balance between leaving them to figure it out alone and overprotecting them. When you are overprotective of your children, they begin to feel dependent and helpless.
Address problems immediately. You should never pretend not to notice a problem. Ignoring the fact that your child is struggling or dealing with bullies will not encourage your child to toughen up and move on. Instead, it leaves them feeling alone. Make sure if your child has an issue that you address it right away with the school.
Discourage avoidant behaviors. Kids should always be encouraged to talk about painful events. When we encourage kids to talk about bad things that happened to them, we help them make sense out of those experiences. Avoiding the issue may result in behavior problems, anxiety, stress, fear and even anger.
Reframe negative experiences. One way this is done is by helping your child keep perspective of things. When your child is bullied or experiences a significant challenge, reframe the situation so that they can learn from it. This doesn’t mean you should ignore their pain. It is good for them to talk about what happened. But, try to avoid dwelling on the negative. The more children talk about being a victim, the worse off they are. Instead, encourage them to try to discover what they can learn from the situation and how to best to overcome bullying.
Look for self-discovery opportunities. When kids are faced with a difficult situation, this also can be a very good time to learn something about who they are. For instance, your child may find that they have a lot of self-control or that situations are easier to navigate when they ask for help. Help your children turn the negative situation of bullying into an opportunity to learn something about who they are.
Be a good role model. Telling our kids what to do or how to behave in certain situations rarely has as much impact as leading by example. If you demonstrate that you can handle difficult situations and bounce back, your kids will learn by your example. If you struggle with many of the things on this list, you may want to focus on changing some of these behaviors in your own life first. Then focus on helping your child.