Most co-parents would agree that they want their children to be resilient. Resilient children are less likely to suffer from mental health challenges such as anxiety or stress, and are more likely to have higher self-esteem and be able to solve their own problems.
Here is a simple plan to help your children become more resilient:
1. Resist the urge to “fix” their problems.
Let’s say your middle schooler is failing his English class. Your first impulse may be to call his teacher to ask if he can do some extra credit, or hire him a tutor to make sure he’s understanding the subject. But by jumping right in to solve this problem for him, you’re teaching him that a parent will always be there (and be able) to “fix” any problems he may have. This is not true. What you should do instead is commiserate with him—“That is a hard subject. I’m sorry you’re struggling.”—and ask him what he thinks he could do about it. Maybe his ideas will be the same as yours (asking for extra credit, hiring a tutor), but they will be his.
2. Acknowledge and talk about their feelings.
Many adults are uncomfortable with anger or sadness in children. This can be especially true for divorced parents, as we may feel guilty or responsible for these emotions. But rather than distracting our children, what we should do instead is acknowledge and talk about their feelings. “You’re really sad today. I know you miss Dad picking you up from school. Do you want to talk about it?” “You seem a little angry. It’s really hard not to have Mom around this weekend. Would you like to tell me about it?” This will help your children—as well as yourself—recognize different emotions and develop healthy coping strategies to deal with them.
3. Remind them that we can do hard things.
Your confidence in your children will help them develop confidence in themselves. They will believe that they can handle difficult situations, solve tough problems, and navigate their way through negative emotions. Letting your children see how you do these things will give them a model they can follow.