September is almost always a time of change for children and families, but this September is unlike any other. Many families are trying to establish new routines, balance increasingly demanding schedules, and prepare for the unknown. This can lead to uncertainty, stress, and anxiety for our young children. Resilience, or the capacity to cope with stress and adversity, is a complex and critical skill. This year it is more crucial than ever.
Resilient children are more willing to take on new challenges, quickly recover from setbacks, and ultimately, try again to succeed. Resilient children are able to manage their emotions through stress and uncertainty. Luckily, resilience is not a trait individuals either possess or don’t; it is a dynamic and learnable skill that can be developed through experience.
Honouring your child’s voice, thoughts, and opinions is essential in building their resiliency. As adults, we can offer multiple ways for children to express their point of view in a safe and nurturing space.
Children naturally turn to play, particularly dramatic play, to work through complex ideas. During dramatic play, children process their thoughts and ideas by testing different solutions in a consequence-free space. As a result, they build coping skills, gain a better understanding of their world, and reduce anxiety about the unknown.
During play, a supportive adult can follow their child’s lead, reading their emotional cues and validating their play. Adults can spend time observing their child’s dramatic play, particularly the emotions of characters the child is taking on. By empathizing with these characters, adults can help a child work through the emotions they may be expressing.
Combining play with other stress-reducers like nature can amplify its effects. Nature reduces anxiety by helping children experience calm and a connection to the world. Nature also provides open-ended play opportunities, rich with loose parts that inspire exploration, curiosity, and creativity. Through nature play, children access influential experiences that help them feel capable and able to deal with challenges.
Child-initiated nature play can give your child an opportunity to set their own goals, problem-solve, and discover their own voice. By encouraging your child to explore and experience nature through their own perspective, they can engage in activities that produce feelings of comfort and competence, both of which are protective factors that foster resilience.
Modes for Individual Expression
In order to build resiliency, older children also need to have their thoughts and feelings affirmed by caring adults. While this can be as simple as an intentional conversation, some older children may be more comfortable expressing their voice in other ways, such as writing, journaling, visual art, or even photography. Provide your child a camera, journal, or art supplies. Ask them about what they’ve created and listen intently to their answers.
Every child is different! Work with your child to find the outlet that best allows them to communicate their perspective.
Over the next few weeks, we encourage you to spend time outdoors with your children engaging in activities that promote their resiliency and honour their voice.
Stay tuned! Each week we will be checking in and posting more information about fostering resiliency.
Jessie Collins, OCT
Education Specialist, London Children’s Museum
Teacher Candidate and AFE Placement Student, Western University
This article features photos from four different children, ages 4-12. We are honoured to share their perspectives on life, their family, nature, and more!