As a parent, we face the double whammy: building and sustaining our own reserves of resilience whilst attempting to do the same for our children. And in today’s society, it’s not easy.
Resilience can be defined as our ability to bounce back, to overcome adversity and to achieve good outcomes, regardless of life events or circumstances. But research shows that we’re struggling. A recent NHS Digital report revealed that 48% of adults have experienced mental health issues at work and 1 in 8 5-19 year olds has a mental health disorder*. At a time when there are growing concerns about our collective ability to manage stress and the pressure to succeed, to cope with transitions and combat negative thinking, we need practical, proactive, preventative solutions that prioritise emotional wellbeing.
And there’s plenty we can do to build resilience, for us and our children. Here are 5 ways to go about it:
1 - WHO ARE YOU? WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO YOU?
A strong sense of self-worth and self-esteem leads to greater resilience and means we are more able to deal with challenge. We can do this by:
Asking key questions: What’s important to you as a family? What are your family values? What does success mean to you?
Focusing on strengths and positive qualities rather than overcoming weaknesses eg a particular skill/ interest, creativity, kindness. Tell each other what you value about them; “You are kind/ helpful/ brave” or, even better, practise saying/ writing, “I am kind/ helpful.”
2 - A GROWTH MINDSET
Based on the work of Dr Carol Dweck, a growth mindset sees learning as a process of making progress, not about outcomes and the end result. To develop a growth mindset, try:
Praise for effort rather than intelligence – move away from evaluative praise (“Clever/ good boy/ girl”) and towards descriptive praise which recognises the skills that are being used – and can be repeated eg the range of colour and detail in a picture someone has drawn; problem solving, creativity, focus, perseverance, listening.
The power of ‘YET’ – “I can’t do it…yet!” Learning can and often does involve a range of emotions including excitement, fear, interest, anxiety and frustration. By acknowledging that’s normal, and taking things one step at a time, we can make progress towards our goals.
3 - IT'S OK TO MAKE MISTAKES - THAT'S HOW WE LEARN
There’s no such thing as perfect – whatever you might see around you (on TV, on social media), or however you perceive other people’s lives – and we all make mistakes. Try reframing mistakes into a positive part of life and learning by:
Thinking about sporting greats and the matches/ events where things haven’t gone to plan that have taught them valuable lessons they can put into practice next time they play.
Sharing your own mistakes! Role model for your children, what didn’t go to plan (trying to construct flatpack furniture, shrinking an item in the washing – anything will work!). If they see that you’ve given something a go, made mistakes and are still ‘ok’, they’ll be less fearful of making mistakes themselves.
4 - SELF-CARE
When we look after ourselves, we are more resilient, more capable, and more able to support those around us.
Remember the basics – sleep, eating well, exercise and getting outside.
You always have your breath – use deep breaths to re-centre, calm anxiety and build confidence.
Try mindfulness to practise noticing how you’re feeling in body and in mind – great apps include Headspace, MindfulnessDaily, Calm
Find and make time for what makes you happy/ calm – music, sport, dance, reading, yoga – ask yourself (and your kids): what works for you?
5 - PRACTISE GRATITUDE
Foster a positive mindset by focusing on what you have, and what’s good in your life.
At the end/ beginning of the day, or whenever you feel particularly grateful for something, write it down.
You can journal (try writing 3 things you're grateful for each day), start a jar of happiness/ gratitude, or even create a wall in your house of all the things for which you’re grateful.
*Statistics from NHS Digital report, November 2018
Pam Cottman is a resilience, leadership and careers trainer, coach, and speaker - and a mum.
A former Assistant Headteacher, she spent 14 years working with students, staff, parents and governors to support the development of young people and her teams. She now runs her own business, working with individuals, teams and organisations and supporting them to reach their potential, focusing particularly on building resilience - through self-awareness, confidence building and giving people the self-care tools to cope with challenging situations.
She is also a recent convert to the joys of The Good Place, a big fan of spending time outside, and loves curling up with a good book.