Q: You recently spoke to the Learning Disabilities Association on ”raising resilient children and good childhood mental health” . What does this mean?
A: A resilient child is one who has the ability to adapt to change, to face risk and to set and achieve goals. They can make friends, accept some rejection and disappointment and still feel good about themselves. They want to do well and be liked, but their whole sense of self is not tied to what others think of them. A resilient child is one who can cope in different situations and has the ability to set some emotional controls. Rejection should not translate into being worthless, and failure at one thing should not mean that he or she can not do anything.
What can we do to promote the development of resilient children? We must provide structure, consistency and boundaries. To do this we must: develop good parenting skills ; learn to support our children unconditionally—“I may not always like your behaviour but I always love you”; learn to advocate on their behalf when needed; learn to actively listen; and teach them to deal with failure, rejection and occasional disappointment.
Children who are not resilient may become depressed. This will consist of some of the following characteristics: depressed tearful mood; loss of interest or pleasure in activities; sudden weight change or failure to make expected weight gains; change in sleep patterns; a sudden change in activity or energy level; feelings of worthlessness or guilt—comments such as :”I’m stupid”, “I’m no good”, throwing out work, smashing play or work efforts; difficulty concentrating, thinking or making decisions; recurrent thoughts of death—comments like “I wish I was dead”; any actual self harm. A depressed child may not want to get out of bed; kicks in the door; rips up homework; swears and fights, or may be listless, with no energy, no desire to play and rarely gets excited. These behaviours, on an ongoing basis, are a sign that something is wrong.
If your child is doing anything that concerns you, and is doing it more frequently than others the same age and especially if it is out of character, it is time to seek outside help. None of the above is meant to be a diagnosis. If concerned, get a professional opinion and counselling to rectify the situation.