In continuing with this post series on raising resilient children, I’d like to discuss the second of three factors that studies have shown greatly influence resiliency, namely, a child’s immediate family.
It is in our families that we learn about who we are. Our families shape our values, our life skills, our ways of interacting with others, what we think about ourselves. The family is one of the most, if the not the most, influential factor in our children’s lives.
Make Your Family A Safe Place
As parents, I believe the most important thing we can do is provide a safe place for our children, and by this I mean an unconditionally loving and supportive environment. In counseling, I have seen countless individuals who will not live the life they prefer for fear of losing the love and approval from parents or siblings. Our children need to be able to become who they are without the fear of it threatening the relationships with those they love most.
Loving and supporting our children sounds like a no-brainer for most parents. We do that instinctively every day. But creating a safe place can be quite challenging if you are really paying attention to the messages you are sending your children. How many children receive the message that they will only be loved if they are obedient, successful, “good”, popular? How many children are seeking their parents approval through grades, sports, gestures, or “being more like their sister/brother.” Sending the message that you love your child “just the way they are” takes conscious effort and intentional communicating.
I Love You Just The Way You Are
Repeat that phase to your child often. “You are so special to me. I love you just how you are.” List the things that you love about them. Tell them often you want them to be happy. Help them find the things that make them happy.
Try to listen without judgment. Try to listen without reacting to quickly. If your child anticipates that you will have a set negative reaction to what they are going to say, they are not going to say it. A must read book to develop this skill is “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen, and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk” by Faber and Mazlish. You can express disapproval and disappointment in your child’s behavior without it negatively effecting your child’s sense of feeling loved by you.
It is inevitable that your child will face difficulties and challenges. It will happen. And the ability to meet these challenges, the resiliency it requires, will be greatly strengthened if you can make your family a safe place and haven for your child.