Think kids have it easy? Not in today’s tech-saturated, stress-driven world. Heck, being a kid today can be tough, really tough, requiring not just periodic shots of courage, but steady doses of resilience.
“Resilience is like a bouncing ball. When the ball hits the ground, we expect it to bounce back. Resilience means you can bounce back from, or deal with, difficult times, new situations, unexpected changes or other experiences that cause you stress,” Dr Wendy L Moss explains to young readers in her recent book, Bounce Back: How to Be a Resilient Kid, published by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association.
Moss, a psychologist, first heads off a typical kid question—(insert whine) WHY do I have to learn all this stuff?—with the explanation that knowing why they are stressed can help kids to better understand themselves and learn effective ways to cope; while knowing stress triggers is an important first step toward getting unstuck, which, she tells young readers, can allow them to have more fun times!
Bounce Back, geared toward ages 8 to 12, includes fictionalized tales of peers who have faced adversity and triumphed, as well as kid-friendly, easy-to-understand advice, quizzes and practical strategies to help motivate youngsters to identify their own personal stress triggers. Bounce Back is broken down into sequential skill-building chapters, and topics geared toward helping kids gain solid resiliency skills.
Grown-up smarts: Kids can learn some keen adult smarts in Did You Know? sidebars featuring scientific studies on mindfulness, gender differences, emotional intelligence, self-talk and more. Self-talk, Moss adds, can help kids role-play at how best to handle tough situations that require uncomfortable conversations with friends or parents. Moss suggests kids first practice what they want to communicate in the mirror, while keeping in mind the need to be respectful, clear and non-accusatory, and to finish on a positive note with a suggestion on how all parties can move past the issue.
Keeping calm and carrying on: Emotional states such as nervousness, sadness and anger can all hinder problem solving—and the ability to effectively cope and face challenges. Moss’s calming strategies include deep breathing and using sensory imagery: “Imagine seeing ‘You Beat the Game!!!’ on your video game screen” or “imagine the smell of your favorite food, or a smell that reminds you of a good memory, like the smell of mud after you and a bunch of your friends slipped while playing football and laughed and laughed about the experience.”
Turning challenges into opportunities: “Researchers have reported that it can be easier to get used to a new situation or problem-solve if, when faced with a dilemma or difficulty, you view the experience as an opportunity,” she says. Learning ways to make decisions, deal with disappointments and adjust to new situations will all give kids opportunities to deal with these times more comfortably and to gain needed confidence.
The power of change: Procrastination-prone kids can empower themselves with the knowledge that it’s all within their control. Moss tells kids, “Remind yourself that putting off your work or responsibilities won’t make them go away and may only add tension to your life” while “getting organized and planning when to take care of chores and tasks can help you to deal with them without tons of stress.”
Social stress: It’s no secret that kids often butt heads, sometimes hard, with family and friends. Being willful and determined to get one’s way can often lead to anger and resentment. Strategies such as brainstorming sessions with a friend can help, Moss says, along with remembering that relationships involve not only respect and compromise, but also how to forgive and how to apologize.
Coping with the unchangeable: Physical disabilities, moving, the death of a loved one, divorce and other painful situations can all cause major stress. Moss reminds kids that there will always be situations beyond their control, but what they can control is how they deal with those situations. Moss also stresses the importance of sharing painful emotions with others to get needed support in order to bounce back from tough times.
Resilient kids have developed not just interpersonal skills, but the ability to recognize their weaknesses along with their strengths. These Bounce Back strategies may help your youngster develop ways to gain confidence to handle life’s challenges to set them on a pathway to lifelong resilience skills. And while this book is geared toward kids, parents, too, may find some wisdom in putting these tips and strategies in their own stress-busting toolboxes.