Want to raise resilient kids? Develop their brains with ‘nurturing routines,’ says parenting expert—here’s how

Resilience is the ability to take on a challenge and come out of the other side with some level of growth and success, and there has never been a more important time for parents to help their children build that.

As a doctor studying early brain development, I’ve found a surprising factor that contributes to increased resilience at a young age: the creation of “care routines.”

Studies show that through structure and familiar rituals, children learn to deal constructively with themselves and their environment.

Nursing routines help children build resilience

When children do things in a similar way and at similar times over and over again, they know what to expect. This predictability creates a sense of comfort and security.

As a result, they are better equipped to handle the unexpected, which is a cornerstone of resilience. The baseline is always, “I’m fine.”

Think of a nurturing routine as a comfort blanket or worn-out stuffed animal that provides a calm, loving environment in which the child feels comfortable exploring their feelings during a setback or challenge.

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And when they start doing parts of their routine with less supervision, they become more independent and confident.

Your child may have a morning routine that encourages healthy behaviors, like brushing their teeth and talking about their daily schedule, or a vegetarian lunchtime snack that encourages a nutritious diet.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating these routines:

1. Encourage dialogue throughout the routine.

Children internalize parents’ communication style as their own “private speech,” so calm, loving prompts and questions throughout the day support emotional regulation skills.

Let’s say they have a nightly routine of brushing their teeth and choosing pajamas. Encourage dialogue by saying, “Look at you, in your comfy clothes and ready to brush your teeth! First we wet the toothbrush. What’s next?”

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2. Explain the “why” behind a routine.

explain the why Behind a routine helps children learn what is expected of them and feel the positive effects 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 small blocks go?”

After they respond, you can respond with, “That’s right! Let’s get ready so we can have a snack to stay energized for the rest of the day.”

This simple activity will help them practice language skills, take turns speaking and understanding the meaning of certain actions.

3. Be consistent.

Remember that resilience does not develop overnight. Children need regular reminders of what these skills look like, so start early and be consistent.

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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 couldn’t read a bedtime story together. But I promise I’ll take my time tomorrow.”

Finally, praise your child when they follow a routine without help so they get used to doing it consistently: “Thank you for folding the blankets this morning.

dr Dana Suskind is 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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