How to Help Children Become Adaptable
Recently concerns have been expressed about some unintended consequences of the idea of resilience. Many people who have poor self-esteem and/or alternatively high expectations of themselves might needlessly suffer because they see themselves as not having the necessary resilience to cope and will try to just 'tough it out' . Adaptability gives more scope for alternatives. In a situation of bullying at work for example, options include reporting the offender or even leaving the job if no action is taken. This might mean accepting a number of changes in circumstances. Being able to accept the need to change and the ability to adapt is going to make that a lot easier.
Being adaptable is related to positive personal wellbeing, and there is a link between adaptability and achievement. We can help our children to develop this important personal quality through a number of avenues.
- Sitting down with your child and helping them to think about a situation in a different way e.g. - I'm going to a new school where none of my old friends are going but I might make a whole lot of new friends. By thinking through the pros and cons we can encourage a child to think about the opportunities in this new situation. In this process they can become aware of some of the negative assumptions or expectations they might be carrying e.g. rather than seeing change as ‘bad’ or undesirable thing we can then encourage them to see the positives in change.
Teaching children planning and problem solving skills will allow them to develop a a different course of action when things don't work out e.g. if I can't go to the skate bowl because it's raining I might be able to work on my model. Frequent practice of adjusting to changes in this way develops greater flexibility and the ability to wing it if the need arises.
- This is the most important area in many ways, as children can get stuck in feelings such as disappointment, frustration, fear or anger when circumstances change. We need to acknowledge their feelings first and then help them to find the stimulating , challenging or fun aspects of a new situation
- Repeated experiences of being able to accept change, accommodate the consequences and adjust to new situations gives children emotional stability and the wondereful ability to hold things lightly which minimizes over-excitement in some situations and dejection in others. This is the basis of equanimity and gives a person the ability to be non-reactive or calm and composed, especially in relationships.