3 Strategies for Building Resilient Kids in the Digital Age
By Mattie Barron
I work in the Kids Club at a local gym and see a starkly different, tech-driven generation of children emerging compared to just a few years ago. Two-year-olds know how to unlock, use, and play apps on their parents’ phones. Four-year-olds sit glued to the television or stare hypnotized over the shoulder of a friend playing on a device. Seven-year-olds have their own phones. Ten-year-olds have tablets AND phones! WHAT?! I don’t even have my own tablet and I didn’t have a smartphone until I went to high school.
This new “playground” is significant. The convergence of tech and play, tech and learning, and tech and social interaction is ridiculously different from when we grew up. When I was their age, I occasionally played computer games, but for the most part, my friends and I played outside, used our imagination, and communicated face-to-face.
How are our kids supposed to learn, practice new skills, and creatively flourish when low-brow tech and mindless entertainment are so readily accessible and so hard to resist? Growing up in this digital age may have many conveniences, but it isn’t easy. Kids are experiencing low levels of self-worth, serious body image issues, and struggle with basic coping skills and the ability to create and maintain healthy, deep relationships.
In a study done by Jean Petrucelli (2016), the relationship between dissociation and body image was researched. In his study, he quoted one of his patients, Isabella, who said, “I am an organism fueled by shame. At my core I feel defective and my organism is hypervigilant to all the evidence that confirms this … I don’t know how to describe the emotion that I feel when I look and feel myself–the ultimate shame. There are no words that come … only the visions and the painful feelings that I have to translate into words” (Petrucelli 2016).
I know I don’t want my children to feels this way about themselves. What can we do? As parents, it’s important to instill resilience in your kids to combat the struggles associated with this new age.
Here are 3 strategies to help raise resilient children:
- Emotionally Connect with Your Child–Daily!
Connection cultivates security. If your child doesn’t feel connected to you, they will struggle to learn from you. Here are some easy ways to connect with your child:
– Hug and say “I love you” every day.
– Play together.
– When kids come home from school– acknowledge them right away, asking how their day went.
– Don’t just listen, but empathize.
– Serve together.
Making the effort to do things like this with your child will strengthen your relationship and help the process of instilling resilience. When your relationship is strong with your child, they will gain inner strength themselves because they recognize they are valued and loved.
- Teach Life Skills
Teaching life skills will give your child the confidence to perform. Instead of allowing them to relying on social media and video game achievements to give them confidence, teach and give them opportunities based in reality. Such life skills could include sewing a button, doing laundry, gardening, caring for an animal, etc. This will help them put forth the effort to achieve outside the virtual world. Here’s an example:
Activity: Make a Meal
– Ask your child what their favorite meal is.
– Plan a day they’d like to learn how to make it.
– Make a list of needed ingredients and go to the store together.
– Go through the steps and have them participate in the process as much as possible. Intervene when needed, but don’t take control.
– Consider writing down the steps with accompanying pictures.
– Once finished, give them a genuine compliment about their efforts.
This activity won’t only be fun for you and your child, but it will teach them necessary cooking skills. Now whenever they are craving their favorite meal, they can make it confidently!
- Teach Stress Management
Kids are prone to stress just as much as adults are! We all need our personal outlets to help dissolve stress. Make sure your child is involved in healthy ways to minimize their stress rather than always choosing technology to get away from life’s problems.Here are some tech-free ways to minimize stress:
– Meditation and relaxation
– Keep a stress journal
– Indulge in a hobby
Don’t just talk about these techniques to your children, but participate with them! If you simply suggest to your child they should do these things, they are more than likely to end up on their phones. But if you motivate them and do it with them, they will be more willing to do so. Bonus – it’ll help your stress levels too!
- Increase Self-Worth
This is a powerful parenting technique! When children develop a sense of self-worth they “feel loved and competent and develop into happy, productive people” (Finello). Aren’t these some of the greatest desires we have for our children? It’s important to recognize the major responsibility we have in developing such traits. Here are some ways to help increase self-worth in our kids:
– Appropriately praise your child. Look beyond appearance and performance and be genuine! For ideas, check out “20 Ways to Compliment a Child That Have Nothing to do With Appearance.”
– Model positive self-talk. As parents it can be easy to voice “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not a good cook,” “I’m ugly,” etc. It’s important to understand that your children are watching and listening to you and tend to model your behaviors because how much admiration they have for you. Consider training yourself to say things like “I’m a good parent,” “I love my hair today,” “I’m really good at making your favorite meal.”
– Support, support, and support your child! If they share their goals and passions with you, help them reach them rather than discourage them. If you desire your kid to go to college, but they’d rather make a career out of their self-taught photography, then support them. Make way for opportunities where they will flourish and love their life, rather than having them feel like they are disappointing you.
For more ideas on how to help your child develop resiliency, check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child. This book provides substantial activities and discussions to implement into your daily life and will help build a stronger relationship between the two of you as well.
Mattie Barron is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Marriage and Family Studies. She is from Tri-cities, WA and has a passion to help create and ignite strong families. She hopes to work in the school system and aid in the support of children and families.
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Finello, K. Simple Ways to Boost Your Child’s Self-Esteem. https://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/social/boost-your-childs-self-esteem/
Petrucelli J. Body-states, body image and dissociation: When not-me is ‘not body’. Clinical Social Work Journal. 2016;44(1):18-26. https://byui.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ofs&AN=113083395&site=eds-live. Accessed May 23, 2018. doi: 10.1007/s10615-015-0539-0.