How to raise resilient kids

by BabyYumYum
resilient kids, embodying resilience and perseverance in the midst of adversity
Reading Time: 8 minutes

BYY’s CEO, Amanda Rogaly, chatted to expert psychologist, Naomi Holdt, about her book, Bounce: How to raise resilient kids and teens. We gleaned lots of practical tools and tips about creating a happier and healthier family.

Why is resilience such an important skill to have?

The rates of anxiety and depression in all age groups has skyrocketed and we’re seeing behaviours in kids and teens bullying, exclusion, meltdowns and anxiety. This is a message.

Tell us about your background.

I started working with teens and children from a young age running holiday camps. I studied, art, education and psychology and have two kids, both empaths.

What’s one important thing you want to share with us?

I really think that most parents will agree that our kids are our wisest teachers.  There’s so much healing and so many interactions between us and our kids every day which highlight what we still need to work on. We’ve all got a lot of stuff to work on but isn’t it awesome to have that opportunity to become our best selves because there’s a relationship that’s highlighting what we need to do!

If you can take away one lesson per day in parenting then you’re doing an amazing job. There’s no way you can do every single thing that’s suggested to you in the book but if it’s that one thing that really just resonates with you, expand on that. If an airplane takes off with just one degree difference, it will land up in a completely different continent .So if we focus on just one small thing in our parenting that we want to work on and change every day, in a year’s time we’re going to be in a completely different space in the relationship with our children.

resilient kids, embodying courage, adaptability, and perseverance in every situatio

Tell us more about this quote in the book: “safety is not the absence of threat, it’s in the presence of connection.”

The world is crazy out there and as parents we’re wired to just want to protect our kids and to keep them from everything but we can’t. But the best news is that the greatest safety that they can experience and feel is in the safety of the relationship. If they know that there is a strong, deep and connected relationship in place they can get through anything. We can get through any storms if we know we’re not alone and there is someone like an adult caregiver who is there and who can guide them through it.

They need to feel safe without judgment, without criticism and that they are unconditionally loved without feeling like they need to be anything other than exactly who they are. That’s safety.

It makes you want to take a step away from your from your phone and really connect because it’s the quality of time you’re spending with your kids not the quantity. It’s about actually connecting with them and delving deep into their psyche and what’s going on in their lives.

How do you find the balance between protecting your kids but also giving them the life skills they need to meet challenges? 

Our kids need to know that we are there for them emotionally and we create those boundaries in an empathetic way in which they feel so safe that they can explore on their own. I always think of riding a bicycle—we want to be there but we’ve got to let go of that bicycle or they’re never going to learn to ride a bike.

If we can’t let go, they end up becoming adults who are dependent, anxious and depressed because they can’t do it on their own and when they do fall they feel they can’t get up. We need to be able to hold that safe space for them. We want to constantly be in tune with our child’s sensitive side.

On that note, boys are human, human beings cry and it’s therapeutic and healing. If we don’t let our boys cry and view that as being a “sissy” , that’s not healthy and then we wonder why there are so many angry and depressed men in the world. We’ve got to hold the space for our kid’s sensitivity and the emotions without judging those emotions.

We need to be able to tolerate those emotions comfortably. The problem is that often when our children experience big emotions we feel we can’t deal with it. That’s about building resilience in ourselves. It’s so important for our kids for us to own: “I’m not perfect and you don’t have to be perfect.” It’s giving our children the gift of humanness.

Give me your top tips to build resilience in very sensitive children?

Often we focus on the meltdowns  because they are our sensitive children. They are phenomenal human beings as they are so perceptive and yes, it can be challenging to parent them. We have to take a lot of deep breaths.

One of the most important things that we can do is regulate ourselves and have selfcare because we need to make sure that we can show up for them when they have these big, overwhelming moments. Remember, they can’t control it in the space of their brain which is in survival mode. If we are triggered, it’s going to make them feel more isolated and more alone, so my number one top tip is to remember you are raising an incredible human who is an asset in the world. I wish we had more sensitive kids because these are the kids who are world changers.

Talk more about regulation.

Remember when they come to us with their big overwhelming emotions, it means they feel safe enough with you to be at their absolutely most vulnerable selves, melting down and falling apart. You can’t take it personally or be triggered. Just know that the next 30 minutes is probably not going to be what you had planned. Regulation is one of the skills that cannot develop in isolation.

A child can’t just learn to regulate when we punish them or we put them away and expect them to just go deal with it on their own and I’ll be here when you can be a smiley face again. That’s telling them that not all of them is acceptable and worthy. Plus, their brain actually can’t grow the wiring to learn to regulate.

We learn to regulate in co- regulation—that means for them to regulate they need a regulated adult or other person in their presence while the brain calms itself. Teens as well. We need to hold that space. When that storm is going wild we need not to react because in that state of survival, you’re literally not getting anywhere . Just be there. Breathing for both parents and child is important. Highly sensitive children often don’t want us to hold them, but they want to know that we are a presence.

Later on, after they are more regulated, we relate, meaning saying something like: “that was hard to go through or “wow, you seemed so upset by that”. Remember that your role as a parent is to grow a brain and our children’s brains are growing until their mid 20s. By being a regulated adult I’m helping my child’s brain grow.

There’s so much negativity in the world. How do we shield them from horror but also to be aware?

Be guided by them. If there are things we don’t want them to find out about at school (there’s a good chance of that), then consider having an age appropriate conversation—that’s key. Often we think they need to know something and maybe cognitively their intelligence can understand it, but emotionally they can’t process it so it sits as a heavy weight on them.

We need to be aware that as we talk  about adult things, our kids are sitting in the back seat or at the dining room table and they’re absorbing it, can’t process it and it creates anxiety;  it goes back to the safety of the relationship where our kids know they can come to us and talk to us about anything and we won’t react and can respond by giving them the information that they want and need that’s appropriate. It’s creating that safe space again where they feel empowered enough to come and talk to you to guide them and to take your opinions and advice.

When you’re not sure how to address certain topics with children, actually ask them what they know instead of just putting all your information  out there. They might have a completely different understanding. For example, my then 6 -year- old daughter came to me and asked, “what’s a virgin?” So I asked her, “what do you think it is?” and she said, “ there’s a cocktail called a virgin cocktail,” so it wasn’t related to a sexual environment at all.  So, you don’t need to go there when it’s  irrelevant or when it’s not the appropriate time. Be guided by their questions. They do need to know that we’ll give them the truthful answers.

resilient kids, where children demonstrate strength, adaptability, and courage in the face of challenges

What are your top tips for self-care?

We’ve really got to reframe what selfcare means—it’s about being your best self. It’s when we can show up and be the best mother you can be—that’s usually when you’ve done something for yourself whether that’s 20 minutes reading, hugging your dog or having a cup of coffee with a friend, a massage, a gym session, rebounding or yoga. After that when you’re interacting with your kids, you’re going to be more mindfully present.

Too often we are present but not present at all. if we want to really show up and engage with our kids and for them to feel the benefits we’ve got to realise that we also need to show up for ourselves. It’s an essential. When we input into ourselves we can show up and be the best parents we can be.

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How do you handle divorce with your kids?

You need them to have the information but you must be level-headed.  Whether it’s a divorce or a trauma or anything difficult we’re going through, we need to help the child. Our children feed off of us so make sure that you are getting the support and the help that you need from more than just from friends and family. An external third party like a professional  is going to make us just do the work and in some uncomfortable areas , we need the growing. That’s how we best help our children.

Plus, research and all the kids I have worked with confirm that the kids whose parents have stayed together for the sake are loaded with guilt that they were responsible for their  parents’ unhappiness. It’s unfair to put that onto kids. Our children learn everything in life through what we role model- that’s how the wiring of their brain grows so if our children haven’t grown up in a home where they haven’t witnessed a healthy relationship, it’s going to be exceptionally hard for them to go out and develop healthy relationships.

A key source of resilience and happiness is that social support that we get in healthy relationships. Self-esteem is also involved. The knock on result may also be anxiety and depression. It’s far better for children to be in two homes where they can witness healthy relationship and have happy parents– when parents are desperately unhappy and depressed we can’t fully show up for our kids.

Of course, divorce is going to be hard and it’s going to be an adjustment and there will be tears and grief but it’s far better for them to know that their parents are happy and able to go on in life. Reframe is as : when you get divorced you’re not breaking apart your family, you’re actually building a family!

When parents don’t seek their own personal support and work through any hate or resentment they feel, unfortunately children become the victims and highly anxious and dysregulated because they’re constantly thinking: “I can’t say this to Mom about Dad or I don’t want to go here with Dad because it’ll upset mom and what if Mom says this about Dad etc.”

Some parting words of inspiration please?

When kids are going through hard times I think the most important thing to remember is that this parenting journey is messy– the world can be a hard place for us and for our kids. It’s human nature to want to fix everything but it’s a primary human need to be understood. When kids are going through the dark they need to just know they’re not alone and that means sitting in it with them. When they know they’re not alone they can discover the strength to find their way out of it.

Check out www.naomiholdt.com

@NaomiH Instagram

Watch the interview here:

Read our review of Bounce here

Buy the book here

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