Teach your children how to bounce back Living to be 100 years old. Can you imagine? Now, that’s a lot of candles on a birthday cake! The National Centenarian Awareness Project studies people in the U.S. who have made it to their 100th birthday. Reports identify that people who reach this age have a positive yet realistic attitude, an adventurous love of life, a strong will, spiritual beliefs, an ability to renegotiate life when necessary and a sense of humor. They know how to put things into perspective as they cope with life’s challenges. They are resilient. The thesaurus gives us a glimpse into this spirit of resilience: flexible, durable, adaptable, buoyant, optimistic, proactive, responsive, tough, and elastic. Resiliency is an important tool for helping us cope with life’s challenges. At work, at home, in our relationships, and as we move about in the world around us, we face challenges and times of transition. How we take care of ourselves and stay focused as we respond to life’s ups and downs is largely dependent on our spirit of resiliency – our ability to bounce back. As adults, our various life experiences have been strengthening our character and cultivating resiliency to help us meet life’s challenges. But, what about our children? As parents, grandparents, teachers and others who have contact with them, there are steps we can take to foster resiliency in the hearts and minds of our children as they learn how to deal with life’s changes and challenges. (1) Teach your children how to express emotion - both positive and negative - in healthy, appropriate ways. Don’t hide your emotions but do control them, modeling how to handle them without burdening children with your own. If you’re upset and your children see that, let them know you’ll be OK. Teach them that with time and attention, along with God’s help, we can move through the difficulties of life. Encourage children to talk about their feelings and reassure them you love him and will take care of them. (2) Help children learn how to resolve conflicts. Set a positive example as you resolve conflicts by using good communication tools. Teach them that conflict is normal and that it’s important for everyone involved to work together to solve problems in a way that will benefit all. (3) Find opportunities for them to do for others and give to others by volunteering, raising funds and being supportive. Help them move beyond the self-focused perception that everything is about them and to learn that their actions can make a difference. (4) Encourage your children to solve problems and make decisions on their own. As they have age-appropriate decision-making opportunities, they’ll learn how to make good choices and to believe in themselves, developing both self-confidence and hope in the future. Don’t rush in to fix every problem too quickly. Show children you have confidence in them by giving opportunity to work things out. When mistakes happen, don’t dwell or be too critical. Instead, help them learn from their experiences. (5) Foster opportunities for children to connect with neighbors, relatives, teachers, church members and community organizations as they learn how to draw support from caring adults. It does “take a village” to raise healthy children. (6) Draw together as a family when crisis comes, modeling how family members can offer support to each other in difficult times. Include children in family discussions, asking their opinions and encouraging them to offer solutions. (7) When difficulties come, model resilient behavior. Continue with normal activities of life – routines, activities, schedules and rules - as much as possible. Teach children that changes and challenges are a part of life, yet the essence of life does go on. Remember: you are your children’s strongest advocate. You are their coach and cheerleader. Let them know through your guidance, supervision, support and reassurance that they can bounce back from adversity or defeat. Encourage a spirit of self-confidence as you help them foster resiliency to cope with the challenges of today and look ahead with hope to the opportunities of tomorrow. Tell them and show them you believe in them and you love them. Above all, share with them God’s love and His promise to walk beside them along life’s journey. Nancy Williams is a licensed counselor and life coach in Kingwood. Share your comments or request information at www.nancywilliams.net

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