Early last week, we visited Art Bug (CBD center) where Dr. Kristie Craigen, Director of Assessments of the Jadis Blurton Family Development Center in Hong Kong, led an interactive discussion with parents about building resilience in children. Bei Zhang, Managing Director of Art Bug, translated the presentation.
Dr. Craigen describes resilience as being able to effectively manage strong emotion and to be able to keep acting in a positive way despite feeling negative emotion. She expresses her most important point: “When you’re talking about resilience, the one thing to remember is that to be able to adapt these theories to your child, you need to be thinking about your child as an individual,” she said.
Understanding emotions can be a really confusing task. In English there are more than 800 words to describe emotion. “It’s really hard for adults, let alone children,” Dr. Craigen explains. To demonstrate the point, the group shouted out as many words as we could in two minutes in both English and Chinese coming up with no more than 25-30 words total. The point of the activity was that being aware of emotions and even being able to describe them is essential to learning how to adapt healthy ways of coping with emotions, the first step in developing resilience.
So what can parents do help their children develop resilience? Dr. Craigen listed the following suggestions.
Let your child make mistakes– “Everyone makes mistakes. It’s important to remember that when you’re failing, you’ll often learn life lessons. By protecting children from small failures, we’re actually stopping them from developing resilience.” Dr. Craigen says. “If your children aren’t failing sometimes, they’re not taking risks or stepping outside of their comfort zone.”
Praise effort, not just success- “If the child isn’t too focused on being successful, they’ll choose the harder task, just to show more effort.”
Encourage flexible thinking- “Help children consider the thoughts and perspectives of others. Ask them, ‘why do you think that’s the answer, what makes you think that, how do you think it made so and so feel when you did that?’”
Be adaptable- “This is the concept of being able to change, in the light of new information. It reduces all or nothing type thinking.”
Modeling resilient behavior in the face of stress is also important for parents, as children tend to imitate adult behavior. Dr. Craigen recognizes the difficulty. “Emotions are hard to control, they just happen, but you can learn to change your thoughts,” she says. “By becoming more aware and practicing, we can get better but we’re never going to be perfect. There’s going to be times when we’re so upset that we act inappropriately. Managing emotions is about recognizing them, understanding them and then taking steps to improve them.”
Photo courtesy of Art Bug