Hands down, one of the best qualities to help our children blossom is resilience. Even if they are slower to warm up to change, if they have a resilient core, they will adapt to whatever life throws at them. Since resilience is not an easily quantifiable trait, it may seem impossible to teach. Many believe a resilient attitude is either something you are born with or not. I agree with this to a degree, but I also believe there are things you can do as a parent to cultivate resilience. An important part of resilience building is free-time and creative play.
Making sure your child has plenty of free-time is essential for many reasons. First of all, as a child grows towards adulthood, they experience many physical and emotional changes. Giving them time and space to relax and recharge off-sets the challenges of everyday life. In our house, we call it down-time. Down-time is also helpful in getting your kids to quiet the external noise of life so they can begin to intuitively listen to what they need to take care of themselves.
On many occasions I have seen my older son request a pause from activity to have some time to read and reset. It lasts a few minutes and then he is game for interacting with others. I admire how he recognizes he needs a break and is able to voice that he does. I believe his ability to tune in to his needs is enhanced by having consistent chunks of quiet time.
For my younger son, his inner voice has developed more through creative play, art projects and word games. When he was very small, he would put together and disassemble jigsaw puzzles for hours and hours. Once I noticed this pattern, I carved out regular ‘puzzle time’ for him. As he grew older, his interests shifted to LEGO building, dot-to-dots and Sudoku. I always make sure he has ample opportunity to explore these pursuits.
The main point is, keep your eyes peeled. Watch what lights your kid up on the inside and make more time for it. The best way to do so in a technology focused world is negotiate. Have your kids earn screen time by first reading or engaging in creative play. Get them moving physically, too. My kids and I are in constant negotiations over such matters. During the school year, homework takes priority, but beyond that, balance is key. Movement, creativity and quiet are the building blocks of balanced emotional health.
If you have seen this post through to the end (thank you for that) consider these same elements for yourself. When was the last time you lost yourself in a good book, went for a walk outdoors or expressed yourself creatively? Can you even remember when you allowed yourself a stretch of uninterrupted quiet?
The best way to teach kids to follow their hearts is to make sure to follow our own.
Let us build our resilience together.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent