In 2022, Children’s Mental Health Week will be recognized February 7 through February 12, with a theme of “Growing Together.” During this week, schools, parents, and community organizations are called upon to raise awareness for mental health in children. In addition to raising awareness, adults and children alike will be asked to consider how they have grown, as well as what they can do to help others grow.
During Children’s Mental Health Week, and throughout the entire year, one way we can foster healthy growth and development in children is by teaching them to be resilient. Resilience comes with numerous benefits and promotes optimal mental health functioning, so it is a skill worth teaching at any time of year.
What is resilience?
The first piece to recognizing the importance of resilience is knowing what it means. Scholars have described resilience as the ability to maintain or quickly regain positive mental health functioning in the face of adversity. Put more simply, individuals who are resilient are able to bounce back from setbacks without experiencing any lasting mental health problems, like symptoms of trauma or depression. A resilient person can experience stress but utilize healthy coping mechanisms to maintain psychological wellbeing.
So, resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity, but why is it so important? A review of multiple studies on the topic of resilience shows that individuals who have this trait are more likely to experience positive mental health. Psychology experts theorize that being resilient can lessen the effects of negative events, so that people are less likely to succumb to feelings like depression and anxiety. Resilience also seems to help people cope with the stressors of daily life and protects them from responding negatively to these events.
In children, developing the skill of resilience can provide them with the tools to be successful as they navigate the challenges of life, while also maintaining a positive outlook. A child with resilience will be able to experience setbacks, such as a family crisis or an injury that sidelines them from their favorite sport, without suffering from lasting psychological effects. That’s not to say that resilient children will never feel negative emotions; they’ll simply be better prepared to cope with them in a healthy fashion.
Resilience may be especially important for teenagers, as poor coping skills can lead to addiction and other risky behaviors. For example, a recent study found that teens with low resilience were more likely to begin smoking and to abuse drugs or alcohol by young adulthood. That being said, it’s safe to assume that teaching resilience early can prevent problems down the road.
Building Resilience in Children
We know that resilience helps children (and adults) to cope with setbacks and enjoy psychological well being, but some people may not naturally demonstrate high levels of resilience. The good news is that there are ways to teach children the skill of resilience and foster healthy emotional development.
Experts recommend some of the following strategies for building resilient children:
- Encourage positive social connections: We can create resilient children by helping them to develop a strong social network of both peers and family. Connecting with others provides children with a source of social support in times of stress. Relationships with peers and family members also provide an opportunity for children to practice the skill of empathy.
- Model appropriate self-care. Even adults need to be reminded to practice self-care, so it makes sense that we might also need to take time to teach children about the benefits of this practice. Remind children of the importance of maintaining a regular sleep schedule, eating healthy foods, and setting aside time for physical activity. Also encourage children to take a break from schoolwork and structured activity to do something they enjoy, even if it’s just collecting rocks in the backyard or reading a favorite book for a few minutes. Children who learn to care for themselves will be better prepared to cope with stress.
- Focus on strengths. When children are faced with challenges, they may be tempted to look at the negative aspects of a situation. They may even blame themselves and start to feel badly about themselves when they face stress or uncertainty. Help children to develop a more positive outlook, by reminding Stromectol price them of things they do well, or asking them to consider what their strengths are. This may require outside-of-the-box thinking, such as asking them what their best friend or favorite teacher would say they do well. When children know they have strengths, they will be able to call upon them when faced with a challenge.
- Teach a hopeful outlook and reframe negative thoughts. Part of resilience is having a sense of hope, but some children will develop feelings of hopelessness when faced with a challenge or setback. Help them to reframe negative thoughts by asking them to consider how they have coped with challenges in the past. It’s also helpful to teach them that feelings like sadness, anxiety, and stress do not last forever.
The above strategies can be taught at home. You may have to reinforce them with repeat practice and reminders, but over time, resilience should become more of second nature, especially when you do the work of modeling resilient behaviors for your child.
Seeking Treatment for Children’s Mental Health
Developing resilience can prevent mental health problems in children, but some children and teens may require professional intervention to promote positive mental health and learn skills like resilience and healthy stress management. A therapist can work with children who are having difficulty coping with stress or painful emotions and help them to increase their resilience. Therapists can also teach healthy emotional regulation and coping skills, which are important tools in daily life.
If you are seeking mental health treatment for a teen in your life, Mission Harbor Behavioral Health has a program specifically designed to meet the needs of adolescents. We have multiple Southern California locations, including a Los Angeles and Santa Barbara office. Our adolescent program includes parent orientation on Tuesday evenings, as well as an intensive outpatient program running from 3:30 to 6:30 pm. Contact us today to learn more about our mental health services for teens.