It’s no surprise that kids learn how to behave in the world by watching and learning from the people they love – and chances are you’re at the top of this list. Think about your daily reactions to a range of situations and the effect on your children’s emotional education. Are you setting a positive, resilient example?
When things go wrong, it’s important to be honest about your feelings. Even though we may not enjoy the experience, negative emotions are a normal and healthy part of life. In fact, new research suggests that experiencing and accepting not-so-happy emotions – some of the time – is vital to our mental health and wellbeing.
Expressing how you feel is one of the best ways to begin to deal with a problem and move forward. Try swapping your usual reaction to a challenging situation for one where you acknowledge your negative feelings and propose a solution to the problem.
Problem: You’ve raced around the house getting the kids ready for a friend’s birthday party. They’re dressed and happy, and you’ve even remembered to buy a gift for the birthday girl. But you’re running late and can’t find your car keys.
Typical solution: Panic! The kids watch you frantically turn the house upside down. You’re frustrated, angry and no closer to finding the keys.
Better solution: Say to yourself, "I can’t find the car keys and we will be late. I will just sit down for a minute and think where they might be then I can look carefully in all the places. Being a bit late will not be too bad – we will still have enough time to have fun at the party."
Problem: It’s been ages since you and your partner spent some quality time together, so you arrange a special dinner at your favourite restaurant. You’ve organised a baby-sitter and even bought a new dress. But your partner gets held up in a meeting and can’t get away in time for the dinner booking.
Typical solution: You call the baby-sitter to cancel then phone your best friend to have a whinge about your partner’s boss – while the kids listen in.
Better solution: Say to your children, "Oh dear, I did want to have a night out with Daddy tonight, and now he has to work late. I feel really disappointed. Well, I guess we can go out on another night. Maybe we can have a special dinner at home. We can save some for Daddy when he gets home later."
You may like to read more about supporting children to develop resilience.