parent as resilience coach

We spend a lot of time at Resilience in Kids talking about the concept of ‘Parent as Resilience Coach’ – but what do we mean by this? What does it take to be one? And what is the difference between parenting and resilience coaching – are they not the same thing?

Parenting is broad and all-encompassing – it is a big and important role that involves nurturing a child’s physical, social, emotional and intellectual development and preparing them for adulthood.

Resilience coaching is a subset of this. It involves focusing specifically on a child’s social and emotional development and on helping a child develop the skills they need to respond to challenges with confidence – it’s about ‘future-proofing them’.

To effectively help build their child’s resilience, parents need to demonstrate a range of behaviours themselves. They also need to know what the behaviours are that a resilient child demonstrates, so they can help their child develop these.

Of course this is a very complex area – every child, parent and family context is different and what works for one family may not work for another. Also, each child and parent has their own unique set of predispositions that influence how they behave, some of which are easier to develop than others. Resilience is also influenced by a broader set of factors than just a child’s parents, including school, family situation, culture and society.

All of that said parents typically have the biggest influence on the development of this critical life skill in their child. So, what do you, as parents, need to do?

resilient child outdoors unstructured play

Here are 8 suggestions:

  1. Show yourself compassion when having a hard time and teach this to your child. This involves noticing when you’re having a tough time, being kind to yourself and recognising that there are countless other people going through the same thing as you. It also involves practicing mindfulness.

  2. Demonstrate a growth mindset and teach this to your child. This is about believing that abilities can be developed through hard work and effort. It is about demonstrating a love of learning, trying hard to learn and apply new behaviours, viewing challenges as opportunities for growth, recognising that making mistakes allows us to learn and looking for alternative ways of doing things.

  3. Coach and teach children. This involves explaining to your child how to apply a skill, modelling the application of the skill, offering suggestions and asking prompting questions to guide your child, avoiding taking over, providing positive and constructive feedback and suggesting alternative behaviours to help your child learn.

  4. Show empathy and teach this to your child. We talk about this a lot. This is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and really understanding how they are feeling. It is about listening actively and playing back what you hear non-judgmentally. It is also about pressing the ‘pause’ button and avoiding matching your child’s emotional state.

  5. Manage change. Think about all the people who will be working with you to build your child’s resilience – this might include your partner, the babysitter, your child’s teacher, their grandparents. What support do you need from them as you embark on this journey of building your child’s resilience? Create a plan for engaging all your key stakeholders.

  6. Model resilience. You are your child’s role model. How do you react when the going gets tough? Your child mirrors you and absorbs these behaviours like a sponge.

  7. Demonstrate self-awareness. This involves being aware of your inner thoughts, emotions and beliefs, all of which affect how you behave. It also involves developing an awareness of what you are doing well and less well when it comes to building your child's resilience. Only when you have this understanding can you start to truly change your behaviour.

  8. Manage emotions. This involves recognising, understanding and expressing your emotions and teaching your child how to do the same. It involves teaching your child that all feelings are OK, but that any negative emotions associated with these are not. It involves validating your child's feelings, seeing the expression of these as an opportunity to connect with your child, and helping them develop an extensive vocabulary so they can effectively communicate them.

Suggested activities:

suggestions to become parent resilience coach
  1. Read 'Self-Compassion' by Kirstin Neff

  2. Read 'Mindset' by Carol Dweck

  3. When coaching and teaching your child, practice backing off and letting them explore what you have taught them, rather than jumping in and rescuing them as soon as it looks like they might be struggling

  4. Download a mindfulness app, such as Smiling Mind, and practice some of the meditations

  5. Do some self-reflection and seek feedback from those close to you. What are you doing well when it comes to building your child's resilience? What could you work on?