By Diana Koh, Assistant Manager of Community Relations
From the day of birth, children tend to face many changes which can bring about stress. Naturally, they would use their emotions to cope. Children respond differently when their needs are not met; babies tend to cry, toddlers throw tantrums, and older children do not hide their displeasure as well.
Some children progressively adjust and cope when met with unfavourable circumstances, while others might experience emotional meltdowns of varying intensities. The ability to generate positive emotions during stressful situations or crisis is known as “Emotional Resilience”. Besides their physical and mental well-being, children’s demographics, environment and exposure to significant life altering events, would also affect their emotional resilience.
Many might perceive positive emotions as good and negative emotions as bad. However, all emotions, whether positive or negative, enable us to know ourselves better. Both are essential in the development of emotional resilience.
Emotional resilience is a value that can be inculcated in children. Here are some steps to help them develop emotional resilience.
The ability to generate positive emotions during stressful situations or crisis is known as Emotional Resilience.
TEACH CHILDREN THE VOCABULARY TO EXPRESS THEIR EMOTIONS
For younger children, parents could use simple vocabulary to help them identify their emotions. As older children might have greater vocabulary for expressing their emotions, parents could help to relabel these emotions, e.g. anger could be relabelled as annoyed/ upset/frustrated/furious. By doing so, children would be educated on the range of emotions, thus, expanding their ability to express themselves more accurately.
ADDRESS NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
Parents should acknowledge the negative emotions that their child displays, and talk about what has brought about these emotions. Rather than avoiding, having open conversations would help children to normalise their emotions. Such interactions also allow parents to gain insight into their child’s thought processes.
DISCUSS HOW TO APPROACH NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
Instead of simply telling children how to respond to negative emotions, parents can explore different kinds of responses and explain to them about the possible consequences. After which, parents can guide them in choosing an appropriate response.
ALLOW FOR AMPLE PRACTICES (parents included!)
As the saying goes, ‘Practice makes perfect’. Every time negative emotions arise, it gives children an opportunity to practise their responses. Over time, they will learn to adjust their emotions to cope with change and stress. Parents also play an important role in modelling responses. While parents do also make occasional blunders, they could take this opportunity to exemplify acknowledging and choosing to respond better.
It is important for parents to reassure their children that every emotion has a purpose. Rather than feeling ashamed or hiding their negative emotions, children could be taught to seek help from an adult. Identifying adult figures whom the child can trust and turn to will provide them with alternative resources.
Given that changes and stress are an essential part of everyone’s lives, parents would have ample opportunities to guide their children in building emotional resilience.
However, keep in mind that building emotional resilience is not a one-day process; it is an ongoing process that requires time and effort to build and maintain.