Every upset is an opportunity to build resilience – how do you respond?

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Resilience

Do you know the noise it makes when you scrape metal on metal? I can’t stand it. It makes my skin crawl. Ugggh. I have no resilience around that. Gets me every time.

 Last night at dinner I was getting the last few carrots out of the steamer with a metal spoon (you know how discs of carrot just stick sometimes?!) and I scraped the spoon on the metal surface. Our daughter yelled – nooooo – don’t do that mum, I CAN’T STAND THAT NOISE.
 
It was immediately clear to me how she’s adopted my response. She’s doing exactly what I do, she’s seen it enough times and now my reaction is hers too. Very dramatic – lol!
 
We’re role modelling everything for them – E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!
 
From how much we use our phone, to how we talk about ourselves, how much we move, what we eat, what we react to and HOW we respond. How to be resilient. So many lessons every day.
 
It’s almost scary how much influence we have over our kids outside of those times we’re actually trying to teach them something.
 
Because of my lifelong experience with an anxiety , I’m really conscious of how I respond to our kids when it comes to worries, disappointments and upsets. I know that how I respond has a big impact on what they think and feel and how they’ll learn to cope over time. Easier said than done at times. That’s because of the contagious nature of emotions. When they’re upset, it’s easy for us to become upset too. Especially when it goes on and on.. and on.
If we react with anger or frustration, it’s often because we can’t stand the crying and the upset for the length of time our kids need to move through how they’re feeling. If this sounds familiar, you can replace a reaction with a response by taking a few deep breaths yourself to begin with and putting these steps into play next time your child becomes emotional. They’ll eventually become the steps they put into place for themselves.
As we role model good coping skills over time their ability to problem solve independently will improve, as will their resilience.
 
1. Validate how they feel 
The very best thing we can all do when they come to us crying, devastated, disappointed, worried, scared, rejected or sad, is to show them that we get it. That we get how they’re feeling. Start by validating how they’re feeling for them. Even if you think they’re totally overreacting or way off the mark. Validate by saying things like “ahhh, you’re feeling scared right now” or “ahhhh, I can see that you’re really worried about that”.
 
Your empathy shows that you get the message they’re sending you via their behaviour. Knowing you’ve heard their message helps to step their response down a little.
 
2. Breathe

Suggest taking a few deep, slow breaths together which helps them to calm how their feeling down another step or two. If they baulk at this idea, suggest a walk around the house or outside where possible so they can begin to regulate their breathing while moving. Deep, slow breathing helps to calm down the emotional response and will help them to start to see the bigger picture around what’s happening. 

3. Shift their attention
Help them bring their attention to the present moment. If they’re worried about something that has or may happen, their thoughts are in the past or the future. Same is true if they feel disappointed, rejected, excluded or sad about something that’s happened. Paying attention to the here and now can have a powerful positive impact on how they feel. One way to do this is to suggest they take a few minutes to play with their pets or to do something physical they enjoy, like cartwheels, shooting a few hoops, having a kick of the footy or bouncing on the trampoline. You could even try the 5-4-3-2-1 technique by asking them to tell you 5 things they see, 4 things they can touch, 3 things they can hear, 2 things they can smell and 1 thing they can taste. You might not get a complete suite of answers but your mission will have been accomplished.
 
4. Take action on what matters 
Last of all, help them turn their attention back in the direction of doing something that’s important to them. It could be to continue to practice their favourite sports skills, to play a game they love, to read their book, to arrange to hang out with a friend. Anything that helps them move forward and engages them in an activity they value. 
So remember:
Validation
Breathe
Shift their attention
Take action towards what matters
I always find it comforting to remember that every upset is an opportunity for our kids to build resilience, to learn coping skills and to experience negative feelings in a safe environment. They need us to understand and respond with empathy. I really hope this helps.
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