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Creating a resilient child(24 Posts)
What are your thoughts /tips / techniques? I often wonder if I'm adding to DD's problems by getting upset on her behalf! I read an old post on mumsnet recently where a parent was v worried about the way her child's teacher had treated the child. One mumsneter replied saying "If you want to build a resilient child, help her get over it, laugh the problem off"
I must admit I stopped and pondered about that for days. I wondered if I've been making my kids weaker by listening attentively, feeling their pain, and often dealing with situations seriously. For example, DD has been struggling with her best friend recently - blowing hot and cold, warm one minute, blanking my daughter the next. The mother of this girl has kindly invited DD over this week, in an attempt to talk to them - but she has said my DD is overly sensitive like me! I've told my DD to write down a list of the things that have upset her recently and to read it out to the girl and her mum.
Now I'm wondering if that's hindering my child from developing any resilience. I'm teaching her to be confrontational, or am I?
So confusing. She's 9 and told me tonight that she doesn't enjoy life because she worries too much.
Is it better to help a child brush things off and laugh about them?
Thanks for any advice
I think so.
I think nobody goes through life with everything going their way all the time, and over analysing everything just draws it all out.
It's difficult to generalise of course.
Yes, it's good to know you will be there for your dc when they need you, but the need to learn that it's much more satisfying to sort out issues for themselves.
They also need to know when to let things go - I've got no time for "being distraught" at losing a sports fixture, or not being elected onto school council or picked for the part in the play. It's disappointing but..... point out all the positive things and then distract.
I used to get my dc to go and ask adults for things rather than jumping in to 'sort' things for them. From when they could talk - at playgroup or somewhere like my church I'd say "Go and ask Mrs so and so" rather than doing everything for them. It build confidence in talking to adults, and it build self belief they can make a difference, or get what they are after by being pro-active rather than passive.
I've spent a lot of time over the years doing 'what would you do if......' scenarios, which also help.
I think there are different types of resilience.
I work in a school many of our top set students lack resilience in my opinion because when they don't understand something immediately they give up, they have always been pretty good at everything they do so don't seem to know or haven't learnt any strategies to try again or try and learn in a different way.
There are students with the toughest home lives who are resilient emotionally who just keep on going but this often ends up with them closing up and building walls.
There are ways to teach resilience particularly if you take part in physical pursuits such as dancing or sports where you practise to perfect a particular move.
To have a resilient child I think you have to let them fail, let them see what it feels like and then support them by reflecting on what to do next and how they can improve.
Watching with interest. Like you OP, I wonder if I'm my own worst enemy as I talk everything through with my DS, lots of talking about feelings etc. He's very sensitive and dwells on things. I think perhaps I've helped him with his roots but not his wings!
I think resilience is also about knowing your limits.
I've recently had a problem with my line manager, she is particularly rude and unpleasant to me I let our next Senior line manager know and the behaviour continued so I told them that I was thinking of looking for a new position and leaving . One of my colleagues told me that you can't go through life getting on with all your coworkers which is true but you can also choose not to put up with negativity in your life if you have another option. I think being resilient is about putting up with things but valuing yourself enough to let go when enough is enough.
If after talking to the friend the friendship doesn't resume it's ok for her to try and strengthen other friendships and move on.
I think it's important not to feed children's anxieties which I think some people do accidentally by giving their fears the even more weight. OP in answer to your question I think you are trying to make the world unrealistically perfect with regards the friend and have inadvertently given her the wrong idea that she will always be heard and what she has to say (which is subjective of course) is overly important. It's of course balance but you can make these things important between you and her (and give her that safety blanket) but you need to teach her to read her environment in relation to others. I suspect the friend and her mum thinks she's a bit of a princess after that?
In general I think....
You also need to teach them they are not the centre of the universe, though are very important to their friends and family of course.
They definitely need to know how to take criticism and realise that what they are being criticised for does not define them but is one of a billion things that makes them up and can be changed most likely if it's important to do so. They decide what's important to fix and what is not.
They need to know that some things just aren't fair and to shake it off when there's nothing to be done but not be afraid to take action when there is. They must be able to tell the difference!
Professionally I work on reframing incidents with the children. For example a girl is given the cold shoulder in the playground or discovers that her friend went on a weekend trip with someone else.
I frame it - what would ten look and feel like? How terrible would that be?
What does 1 look like? And so on.
Then we frame the incident. Once you have built a framework you can get to "what do you want to do about it?" When I ask my students this they often respond with "not sure. Nothing. Can I come back and tell you how I got on?"
You are basically taking their immediate worry seriously but putting it into context so they get a sense of how best to respond
I glanced up so have seen cross posts. Other stuff I do is the finger of five options - draw round her hand and look at all the possibilities of what happened. So first finger might be "Betty punched me in the corridor" Betty might have. And that needs managed. But it might not be that way. So with your help the child works through 4 other possibilities of what could have happened. Betty was bumped from behind so didn't mean to bash and so on.
At the end of the day you build resilience by offering them a way to make sense of what is happening and how to move on from it
Just to add, as a child, maybe 7-9, I went through a very very anxious patch. My mum was sympathetic and comforting and it used to make me feel more panicked as I interpreted it as her confirming that I might have a brain haemorrhage, or a killer might come into the house or my eyes might fall into my head if I lay on my back. I always remember after a few years of this going on with me calling mum at night to sleep in my bed (thus confirming that there was a problem and I needed her there) my mild mannered dad came to my room instead on night and sternly asked 'well, what's wrong now dolly', 'Emm not sure (because frankly I simply felt anxious) there might be someone under my bed and Im scared', 'well tell him to fuck off then, I'm off back to bed' and he turned and left. I was go smacked and suddenly realised how silly it all was and that's where my night anxieties ended. Mum and I could have kept it up years!
Im a very self assured, happy and resilient (so far) adult and I think my mum made things worse but then again maybe it was all part of why I'm resilient....
I'm so grateful for your replies. There's some very helpful and thought - provoking advice on here. DollyB - I love your story. Can't tell you how much that sounds like our household right now, in terms of her endless fears about kidnapping,house fires, mummy dying etc and the nightly crashing into my bed having had a nightmare.
Thank you all.
Dd and I have done a lot of work on this as she has a chronic anxiety disorder (genetic and linked to some other issues).
Basically, it is about acknowledging that the real problem is the anxiety, not the situation. It doesn't mean it isn't real- of course anxiety is real- but it does mean it isn't something you can fix by insisting that the whole world should be made fool-proof. At the end of the day, after everything had been fixed, the anxiety would still be there.
So what you need to look for is ways to get the anxiety to give up. Dd has found CBT-based relaxation techniques very helpful. They basically help you to focus away from the anxiety, to treat the anxiety like a pestering child and basically tell it it's not going to get attention.
One that I find very helpful is imagining myself walking down a country road, and coming to a crossroad. The signpost has one hand that says "Stressful thoughts". At this point I say to myself (aloud or not, depending on where I happen to be) "NO. I don't have to go down that road, I choose not to go down that road".
Dd will now ring me when she is in a stressful situation (panic attack before an interview in a strange city) and I will know that what she wants is not for me to offer to come and rescue her, but for me to tell her that I know she can cope, that I know she will not give in to anxiety, that she knows what to do and I am confident she will do it.
My DD is younger (Yr2) so I don't know if this will work as well when she is older but, for now, she likes to hear about the times I wasn't invited to a party, someone said something mean to me etc. Not anecdotes about my childhood when, in her eyes, the dinosaurs probably roamed next to me but recent things with people she knows. The first time she wasn't invited to a friend's party it was a disaster, less so when she learned that that happened to people all of the time, including me.
Thanks Cory and Boa, your experiences are intriguing
I learnt this the hard way. My dad is very sensitive and as a result her journey through primary school was tough with her being bullied. I removed her from the school and then with a fresh outlook I tried to make her more resilient. The funny thing was that being bullied had sowed the seeds of resilience in dd. (I wouldn't recommend how things came about but just telling it how it was)
Each time something happened in her new school we would talk about what had happened and then talked about how she dealt with a situation and what if anything she would do differently.
Since then dd has come on leaps and bounds and now realises that the ability to shrug things off and not get upset is within her own ability. It's a long tough journey but they do get there in the end. You are not wrong in your feelings op but perhaps you need to learn to keep them under wraps rather than letting your dc become aware of them.
For me, resilience is being able to handle your negative emotions.
So my dh had parents of the "distract and move on" kind - they do iteven now with the grandchildren. It could be coincidence but dh finds it difficult to deal with conflict or negative emotions and will not share stuff and takes it very personally when I get cross about something. It's ridiculous and makes it hard for me to express anything "emotionally".
I had a mother who was emotionally absent. So I had my own negative feelings which I didn't know how to deal with. I think I'm actually quite resilient as I had a tough upbringing (was in care, suffered abuse etc etc) but not in a good way.
So I try and teach my DCs that it is ok to feel certain emotions and to recognise those emotions but the important thing is how they express them and what they can do about it.
Late to this thread, but OP I don't think your idea of writing down the upsetting things and reading them out to the girl and her mum (while on a play date at their house) is a great idea! Friendship issues are really common at this age (I have a 9yo DD) and I think the important thing is that the other girl and her mum have invited your DD over and are trying to build bridges and help the girls move on together.
I think you can acknowledge that DD is upset and that her feelings are valid, but also encourage her to move forwards without dwelling on every little past incident.
Really good thread OP. Reading with interest because I also desperately want to teach resilience.
I've four DC who are now young adults and I think I've come to the conclusion that I haven't had that much influence on how resilient they are. 😂 They are all so different and are resilient about some things and not about other. I've also come to realize that the ones that appear calm and strong aren't necessarily as resilient as they and everyone else thinks.
I also find it interesting to try and define what resilience looks like. One of my DDs found A Levels very stressful and would have the occasional meltdown but looking at it logically her meltdowns were entirely justifiable. She was right to feel stressed and letting it all out was better than not acknowledging her stress. Would she really have been more resilient if she had bottled everything up and not addressed it which is what one of her brothers did. He was the one who never complained about anything ever and appeared to be in total control all the time.
My ds is 9 and I would not get involved with his friendships like that at all. Maybe it's different for girls and boys I don't know.
I'd be telling him to sort it between themselves and if they couldn't then simply play with someone else end of. A list of things to read out what's upset her lately is just cringing tbh and making a bigger issue than there needs to be.
If it was bullying that the other girl was doing then yes it needs to be brought up (I suspect it's not or you wouldn't be sending your dd on a playdate ) but if it's a case off - last Thursday you sat with x at the dinner table not me or 3 weeks ago you partnered y in pe instead of me- type of things then you should be telling her to get over such things and move on not read out a list later down the line.
BTW I'm not sure I tried to teach resilience as such but I always did a lot of role play with my DC when they were little and I tried to let them work out what they would do in particular situations including worse case scenarios. I tried to give them the confidence to tackle problems themselves.
I suspect the biggest factor might be having a happy, stable, fun and low stress home life.
I think it's good to help children to express and name their emotions, but it's important to stay calm yourself, so you build their confidence that the emotion will pass, and then help them to problem solve ways they can deal with the situation. Demonstrating how you yourself calm yourself down and deal with emotions can also help. But if you get stressed easily you may be passing that on, so you may find you need to work a bit harder on your own emotional management. In particular don't escalate the language they use - if they say something was a bit frightening, don't say "that sounds terrifying".
<<I've told my DD to write down a list of the things that have upset her recently and to read it out to the girl and her mum. >>
Perhaps you should warn the other mum of this impending treat. Maybe the other little girl could be encouraged to jot down all your daughter's shortcomings as a friend too?
I get where BarbarianMum is coming from. It's a fine balance between acknowledging your child's feelings and not feeding them or encouraging her to hang onto them.
Also between understanding your little girl's feeling and recognising that there is another little girl at the other end of this who also has feelings. If something would crush your own little girl, then it is probably not a good idea to encourage her to do it to somebody else. Or do you think she would be fine if her friend turned up and read out a list about everything she had got wrong?
I have often had to try and remind myself that children have short memories. There is nothing less helpful to them than a parent who remembers things after they are ready to move on.
This is a very interesting thread. As a teacher, resilience is something I try to encourage and, as people have mentioned, there seem to be different types. Getting over failure, dealing with difficult challenges, taking criticism and being unfairly treated all seem to be relevant.
Good on you for reflecting like this, OP. In the spirit of honesty and friendship, I have to tell you that if one of DD's friends turned up with a list like this, I would be instantly discouraging the friendship. I am not saying this to be offensive, but I would just think what an awful lot of drama and emotional pressure for my own DD to handle.
I would also worry about the continual friendship dramas that would unfold with a parent who would make a list like this. Sorry.
Imagine being the other little girl. It's really important that your DD's feelings are heard and acknowledged, but she needs to also be encouraged to look at different perspectives and outcomes. Helping with resilience to me means helping them to tap into their own resources.
'Why might she have done that?'
'How could you Make this better for yourself?' Etc.
I like the PP's 5 fingers idea - am stealing!
Good luck. You sound like a really caring mum.