Resilience is the ability to meet a challenge and come through with some measure of growth and success, and there has never been a more important time for parents to help their children develop it.
As a physician who studies early brain development, I found a surprising factor that contributes to increased resilience at an early age: creating “parenting routines.”
Studies show that having family structure and rituals teaches children how to manage themselves and their environment constructively.
Parenting routines help children build resilience
When children do things in the same way and at the same time, over and over again, they know what to expect. This predictability creates feelings of comfort and security.
As a result, they are better equipped to deal with the unexpected, which is the cornerstone of resilience. The bottom line is always, “I’m going to be fine.”
Think of a parenting routine like a security blanket or worn-out stuffed animal that provides a calm, loving environment in which the child is comfortable exploring their feelings during a setback or challenge.
And as they begin to do parts of their routine with less supervision, they’ll become more independent and confident.
Your child can have a morning routine that encourages healthy behaviors, such as brushing teeth and talking about their plan for the day, or a midday vegetarian snack that promotes a nutritious diet.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating these routines:
1. Encourage dialogue during the routine.
Children internalize a parent’s communication style as their own “private speech,” so calm, loving prompts and questions throughout the day support emotional regulation skills.
Let’s say you have a nightly routine that involves brushing your teeth and choosing pajamas. Encourage discussion by saying, “Look at you, dressed comfortably and ready to brush your teeth! First, we wet the toothbrush. What’s next?”
2. Explain the “why” behind a routine.
explaining the why behind a routine helps children learn what is expected of them and feel the positive impact of completing the routine.
For example: “We had so much fun building with our blocks, but it’s time to clean up. The big blocks go in the blue bucket. Where do the little blocks go?”
After they respond, you can respond with, “That’s right! Let’s wrap up so we can have a snack to keep us going for the rest of the day.”
This simple activity helps them practice language skills, taking turns, speaking, and understanding the importance of certain actions.
3. Be consistent.
Remember that resilience does not develop overnight. Children need regular reminders of what these skills are like, so start early and be consistent.
Long or difficult days can make it difficult to stick to a routine. Parenting requires flexibility. Sometimes a comforting statement can make up for a missed routine: “I’m sorry we didn’t get to read a bedtime story together. But I promise I’ll make time tomorrow.”
Finally, praise your child when she follows a routine without help so she gets in the habit of doing it consistently: “Thanks for folding the blankets this morning. How well you remember that!”
Dr Dana Suskind is a professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of Chicago Medical Center and founder and co-director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health at the University of Chicago. She is the author of “Parent Nation: Unleashing Every Child’s Potential, Fulfilling Society’s Promise.” Follow her on Twitter @DrDanaSuskind.
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