Tragic events that affect children often spark discussions on topics such as gun control, mental illness and how politicians, educators and mental health professionals can help children cope when put in tough situations.
Negative experiences can result in emotional pain, mistrust in others, and feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem or lack of motivation. Because of this, educators and mental health professionals agree that we need to focus on promoting resilience in young children. Resilience is the ability to adapt well to negative or challenging experiences in life, such as trauma, adversity, disaster, or any stressful event. Children can learn resilience skills to help them cope with these negative experiences.
There are three factors that should be considered in promoting resilience in young children. Children need to build healthy attachments or relationships with others in their lives over time and through nurturing interactions. Educators can do the following to build attachments or relationships:
- provide lots of family time through games, reading or other family fun activities
- include parents in the child care program’s decision-making
- include positive interactions during play and routine activities
Children need to take initiative to meet their own needs through their thoughts and actions. Educators can promote children’s initiative by:
- providing an inviting learning environment with ample toys and materials to promote purposeful play
- teaching children self-help skills with appropriate, child size materials
Self regulation is also an important skill children need to develop in order to express emotions and manage their own behaviors in appropriate ways. Promoting children’s self regulation includes:
- setting age appropriate and consistent limits for children
- providing opportunities for children to develop pro-social skills
Children who develop appropriate coping skills to deal with stressful events grow up into adults who are well adjusted, productive citizens in our society.