Build family resiliency to better cope with challenges
Life is full of unexpected experiences. Some bring us joy and some can leave us upset, uncertain, anxious, worried and even fearful. In challenging moments, it may seem hard to believe that these experiences can help us develop resilience; the ability to recover from setbacks and carry on, stronger and wiser than ever.
For some of us, resiliency seems to come naturally. This is often due mostly to a combination of temperament and upbringing. Many of us need some guidance and understanding on how to build our resilience. One way individuals can build resilience is within our families (a family is two or more people who depend on one another).
Family resiliency is your family’s ability to cope with life’s challenges and to bounce forward from difficult times. We look to our families for love, support and enjoyment and we rely on our families when times are tough. Resilient families are better able to cope with life’s challenges and provide the best environment for individuals to flourish.
While all families are unique, face different challenges and rely on different strengths to cope, there are some things all families can work on to become stronger. These include personal wellness, healthy communication, a sense of togetherness, positive parenting, strong partner relationships, connections to extended family, and connections to community. You may be wondering, how you can practically apply this to my family? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
To foster personal wellness do something each day for yourself. Try to spend some time outside daily and take a walk if you can. Take deep breaths to help manage strong emotions.
Healthy communication can be encouraged by talking about challenges and brainstorming solutions together. When times are busy, a car ride can be a good place to talk. Shared laughter can be a great way to feel close. Finally, a hug may be more powerful than words.
To strengthen your family’s sense of togetherness, eat meals together whenever you can. Play a game or do a puzzle instead of using your devices or watching TV. Daily rituals like bedtime stories can be comforting.
Positive parenting can be supported by celebrating the small, good things that happen each day. Help family members understand that making mistakes is OK and a way to learn. Apologize when you are wrong! Decide on your family rules and consequences and stick to them.
To build strong partner relationships, take an interest in the things your partner enjoys or try something new together. Be honest about your feelings and listen respectfully to each other. It’s OK to disagree, just be kind and respectful when you do.
Connections to extended family may be a challenge if your family members live in other cities. Get creative with regular phone or video chats! Ask your family elders to share their life stories. Be a cheerleader for the children in your extended family.
Some ways to create connections to community include exploring what programs are available in your community, volunteering as a family, and sharing your knowledge of community supports with others you meet. You could also pass on your children’s toys or outgrown clothes to others.
A family’s resilience can also be fostered when parents have opportunities to learn about challenges children may be experiencing and how to best support them. Screen use through gaming and social media has certainly impacted many families in recent years!
It is exciting to announce that South Zone will have an opportunity to hear from Dr. Phil McRae, who will speak about “Growing up Digital in Alberta: Distracted, Tired and Anxious.” He will highlight key findings from the world’s largest study on technology, health and learning. This event is offered through a partnership with the Redcliff Youth Centre, the Town of Redcliff, the DREAMS Mental Health Capacity Building Project and Alberta Health Services - Addiction and Mental Health. The event is scheduled for Feb. 20 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at IF Cox School in Redcliff.
If you have questions about family resiliency or the presentation, please call the Addiction Prevention Mental Health Promotion team at 403-529-3582 and press option 1.
(Excerpts for this column taken from the Simple Connections, Stronger Families toolkit was developed by the YLL My Home coalition in Lloydminster, in partnership with Alberta Health Services.)
Michelle Sauve is a tobacco reduction counsellor with Alberta Health Services, and can be reached via email at [email protected]