Often, we go into the outdoors thinking of all the physical benefits it has to offer. Although the fresh air and exercise are all worthwhile reasons to go outside, you can also find value in how it teaches how to build resiliency in kids. Resilience is the most important thing we can build in our children and in ourselves.
What is resilience and why is it so important? In short, resilience is having the skills necessary to cope with whatever life throws your way. Often, parents will say, “I just want my kids to be happy.” While wanting our children to be happy is a worthy goal, we know they can’t be happy all the time. Inevitably, unexpected things will happen in their lives out of their control that will bring sadness and pain. The outdoors provides the perfect setting to test the skills of resilience by naturally introducing children to unfamiliar challenges. They will learn to navigate these challenging situations, thus enabling them to better navigate the challenging moments of their lives.
Here are 3 ways you can use the outdoors to build resiliency in kids:
Model healthy coping skills
Before expecting resilient behavior in our children, we should model resilient behavior in ourselves. There is a lot that can happen in the outdoors that gives opportunities to model coping with difficult circumstances. You may forget the tent, it may start to rain, your favorite camping spot may be unavailable, or the trail may be difficult. How we react to these challenges teaches our children how to react. Some simple ways to model healthy coping skills are:
-Take a break.If the trail is getting hard, then take a little break. True resilience isn’t just pushing through. This teaches children that breaks are good and even essential to completing a difficult task.
- Determine if what you are facing is a real crisis or perceived.It may help by stating the facts such as, “We forgot the tent. Staying angry about it isn’t going to magically bring back the tent. Is there another way for us to have shelter tonight?”
-Practice emotion regulation. Recognize the emotion and let it pass. Do not try to hold onto it or do not try to push it away too quickly. Think of the emotion like a cloud passing in the sky. Let it come and let it go.
Find ways for children to contribute
Children need to know that they have purpose. They are motivated as they know they play an important part. Give them tasks they can do around camp or along the trail. As they contribute, they will feel more of a sense of control because they aren’t just passive observers of their outdoor experience. Rather, they are active participants that have much to offer. As they gain that sense of control, they are also more likely to use healthy coping strategies. Some examples of ways children can contribute to the outdoors includes:
-collecting sticks for the fire.
-clearing rocks from the tent area.
-carrying their own water on a hike.
Some of these tasks may seem simple, but children that feel needed become resilient adults.
Develop confidence through competence
Competence is the ability to do something efficiently while confidence is a feeling of self-assurance in one’s own abilities. Competence and confidence go hand in hand. As children grow in their abilities, they become more confident in themselves. Giving children opportunities to demonstrate their competence builds that confidence thus building resilience. Some examples of things we can do in the outdoors so that our children can demonstrate their competence include:
- Leading the group on a hike they are already familiar with.
- Bringing along a grandparent who may need a hand along the way.
- Teaching them a skill such as identifying plants then having them teach that skill to someone else.
The ability to cope in a healthy way is the most important skill we can teach our children so that they become successful adults, able to navigate the tumultuous uncertainties of life. We can use the outdoors to aid in teaching these skills to our children as we model healthy coping skills, find ways for children to contribute, and develop confidence through competence. Our efforts, coupled with the outdoors, can raise resilient children who become resilient adults.
By TaLisha Landon
TaLisha is a mom of two beautiful kids and has a degree in phycology. She is just as genuine in person as she is online! You can also find her at UtahMountainMama.com or on Instagram @UtahMountainMama. Go give her a follow because she shares some amazing tips and advice for getting outdoors with your kiddos!