10 Activities to Help Your Child grow despite life challenges
By Deborah Holmén, M.Ed., NBCT
Raising resilient children is an essential part of parenting. Resilience is the capacity to cope with stress and disappointment, a quality that can be taught and developed in children.
A resilient child can better handle life’s curveballs and use them as opportunities to grow and learn.
According to Vanessa McCroskey, the Educators’ Program Director of the North Carolina Outward Bound School (NCOBS), “In our current post-pandemic stage, parents are concerned about their children’s social isolation. Kids have become accustomed to using technology to communicate with others rather than utilizing their natural social skills and are dealing with anxiety, lack of predictability and low motivation.”
NCOBS is part of a national network of Outward Bound Schools across the US and runs its programs in North Carolina, Florida and Argentina. Outward Bound USA is an outdoor education program using experiential learning, challenge and adventure to encourage personal growth and greater self-awareness in a group setting.
Through activities such as backpacking, mountaineering, kayaking and canoeing, participants are encouraged to push their physical and emotional boundaries in order to develop stronger problem solving and teamwork skills. Their Florida chapter also includes sailing in its programming.
According to McCrosky, these types of experiences are becoming the gold-standard in teaching children resiliency.
“In researcher post-course surveys in 2022, 84% of our students in multi-day Outward Bound Professional Learning Lab courses reported that they gained courage to face challenges.”
Ten activities that can build resiliency in children:
1. Talk About Feelings: Talking openly with children about their emotions helps them understand that it is normal to feel different ways, especially when faced with difficult situations. Make sure to validate their feelings and give them strategies for managing their emotions.
2. Set Goals and Celebrate Successes: Encourage children to set realistic goals and help create a plan for achieving them. Celebrate successes and encourage them to keep going even when things get tough.
3. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is being aware and present in the moment. Teaching children mindfulness can help them better manage their emotions and handle stress.
4. Teach Problem-Solving: Problem-solving is a skill that can help children better cope with stressful situations. Encourage children to break a problem into smaller pieces and devise creative solutions.
5. Encourage Self-Care: Self-care is essential for maintaining emotional and physical well-being. Practicing healthy self-care, such as eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep and exercising, helps children become responsible for their overall health.
6. Encourage Gratitude: Practicing gratitude helps build resilience by focusing on the positive. Teaching children to be grateful for the things they have, instead of focusing on what they do not, helps create compassion.
7. Provide Support and Guidance: Resilient children need supportive relationships to help them through difficult times. Ensuring children know they can always count on an adult or caregiver for guidance and support helps them develop coping skills.
8. Model Resilience: Show children how to handle difficult situations with grace and determination. Sharing experiences and stories of perseverance and overcoming challenges builds a bridge of learned experiences on which children can reflect.
9. Foster Independence: Resilient children learn to rely on themselves in difficult situations. Children should take on new challenges and make decisions independently.
10. Nurture a Growth Mindset: A growth mindset means believing everyone can learn and grow, no matter what. Teach children to be open to feedback and never give up.
“The comfort, learning and danger zones are essential concepts for children to understand,” McCrosky said. “The comfort zone is a place for children to feel safe and secure. This is where they are most comfortable and can easily relax. The learning zone allows children to explore new activities and gain new skills. They may feel uncomfortable in this space, but it is a safe place to challenge themselves and grow. The danger zone is outside of the comfort and learning zones. This is a place of extreme discomfort where children may become overwhelmed and shut down. It is important for children to understand these boundaries and to be aware of their own physical, emotional and mental limits.”
Community Businesses That Build Resiliency
Fun 4 Tampa Kids– a clearinghouse of character and leadership events and programs for kids like Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts, Pace Center for Girls, Faith-based programs, Military Youth programs, Daughters of Destiny Girls Mentoring Program and more.
Outward Bound USA – leading provider of outdoor education programs that allow young people to explore their personal potential.Derrick Brooks Charities – Their Youth Programs provide an empowering environment for young people to foster respect for themselves, their family and their community. Such initiatives are designed to strengthen youth resilience and protective factors that promote responsibility.