The Bounce-Back Kid: 3 steps to a happy and resilient child

When you ask any parent off the street what they want for their kids, my guess is that at least 9 out of 10 would say they want their kids to be happy. But the way that I dissect that wish in my mind does not equate to kids who are protected from everything, never suffer, and never go through hardships. In fact, a kid who can bounce back from challenges might be the happiest kind of kid. Wouldn’t you agree? 

What’s a Bounce-Back Kid? 

After 9/11, the American Psychological Association (APA) created an initiative to bring public awareness to the concept of resilience. APA (2003) defines resilience as “the human ability to adapt in the face of tragedy, trauma, adversity, hardship, and ongoing significant life stressors.” There is a common misperception that resilience is dichotomous— a have or have not— but it’s just not true. Some kids may have the bounce-back of a rubbery bounce-y ball while others’ bounce may be more like that of a tennis ball, but either way, these are kids that demonstrate a pretty high degree of resilience.

Raising a Kid with Bounce

It is true that some kids are just born with a bit more bounce than others. For example, intelligence, which does have some genetic loading, seems to act as a a buffer. Research has also identified several other predictors of resilience, too, that a parent can surely help support.  

Sees the bright side:

A bounce-back kid of the highest degree typically copes using humor. That’s right. Belly laughs aren’t just fun, they’re practical. People who are able to see the bright side of things seem to be able to un-do some of the negativity they might feel after a stressful event. They also happen to be better at gaining support from others. How can a parent support this? Don’t take yourself too seriously. That is, be willing to laugh at yourself. Being able to see the bright side can also translate into gratitude which has gained lots of attention in the last decade as a mood booster. 

Sense of competence:

One of my favorite concepts to teach others about is Carol Dweck’s growth mindset. As a society, we seem to have become uncomfortable with struggle. A growth mindset not only teaches the bright side to struggle, but embraces challenges as a learning opportunity. A bounce-back kid isn’t deterred when the going gets tough. The bounce-back kid is determined because she believes in herself. How can a parent support this? A caregiver who can step aside while a child figures something out, providing support when needed, but not interfering when their child demonstrates developmentally-appropriate struggling, sends an important message. This caregiver communicates to their child, “I believe in you and see you as capable” and this is a lesson that children take to heart.

Social strengths:

A bounce-back kid is a kid who knows that at least one parent cares about her. The warmth of a parent and a health attachment are tied to all kinds of goodness that will result in better emotional regulation and friendship-making skills in a child. How can a parent support this? We know that parents who have social support are more sensitive to their kids and cope better with irritable kids. Yet, parents can be so self-sacrificing. Seek support for yourself. This will absolutely have a positive impact on your parenting and it’s also good modeling to show your children that you’re willing to ask others for support. Secondly, set up times for your child to practice their social skills. If you have a child who struggles socially, set up really low pressure play dates that are sure to set up your child for success— ones that involve a structured activity perhaps and ones with another child who you know is patient and kind. 

At Intuition Wellness Center we specialize in integrated services and wellness programs for children, young adults and families and supporting other like-minded professionals in doing good work. We offer parent education seminars, wellness classes and other supportive services. If you think you would like some extra support, call us. Call 520-333-3320 for a free phone consultation.

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