Written by: Melanie Appleyard, Guest Writer Brainz Magazine
Animals are amazing. It’s so easy to take them for granted, as we see them around us all the time, but have you ever stopped to think about their character traits and the lessons we can learn from them? One of the most amazing things that animals demonstrate is their resilience.
Resilience is a key skill that makes the world of difference to our mental health and our success in life. It’s the ability to bounce back from difficulties and keep going. Whilst this explanation sounds simple, the actual practice takes a lot of inner work and development. By supporting children to become resilient from a young age, you will not only help them improve their confidence and mental wellbeing, but you will also help them become more successful in their career and endeavours throughout life.
Here are 5 key areas that animals can teach, which will help you build resilience in your kids:
Self-awareness is a key factor in managing well-being and developing resilience. By helping your children become more self-aware, they will be better able to recognise and manage their needs and emotions.
Animals live in the moment. They have to be aware of everything around them in order to survive – to know when predators are around, and to find food. Because they are not thinking about what happened yesterday, or what will happen tomorrow, they are more content to just ‘be.’
Owls are a great example of this. They fly around at night, unafraid of the dark and the unknown. They are alert to opportunities and trust their own intuition, senses and judgement to seek them out. To do this they need to be fully present.
Owls, like many animals, are constantly in the moment, fully aware of every sound, sight, movement and sensation around them, which they use to guide their flight.
By teaching your children to be present and live more in the moment they will be more able to pay attention to what is happening at any given moment and learn to recognise how their body responds to that event. This will not only help them to recognise and better manage their emotions, but it will also help to guide them in their decisions.
Bears are another great animal to teach about self-awareness. They are powerful and protective and known for their confidence, strength and courage to stand up for themselves. They are playful and very grounded in nature, therefore very connected with everything around them. They hibernate in winter to energise them for the summer, so they know that rest and quiet time is just as important for their well-being as play and connection.
Bears, therefore, encourage you to teach your children to value and appreciate the natural world around them, to find a good balance of work, rest and play and to become grounded in who they are, without allowing others to change them.
Cats are great teachers of self-esteem. They have a strong sense of identity, knowing exactly who they are and what they are good at. They walk proudly, with their head held high, giving of an air of complete confidence.
Have you ever come across people like this? They are often very successful at what they do and people look up to them and usually listen when they talk. These people have often learned to recognise what they are good at and the more validation they get from that, the more confidence they have, which shows in the way they move.
By encouraging children to recognise and take pride in their achievements, they will learn to value themselves more and want to do more. Every small step is a step forward and an achievement to be celebrated. The more they do this, the more confident they will become and the better they will feel about themselves.
Badgers are another great teacher of self-esteem. They live a life that suits them. They are nocturnal animals, who are able to live peacefully with many other animals. They move at their own pace and at a time that suits them. They teach you not to rush into things, to accept others without prejudice and to live a life that suits you, even though it may be different to that of others. Despite being able to live with others, badgers hunt for food independently and so are very self-reliant.
The lesson we can take from badgers is that everybody is different, and people have different needs and requirements. What’s right for one person isn’t always right for others and that’s ok. Too many people allow fear of judgement to prevent them from doing the things that they love, but that can breed resentment and unhappiness as they settle for things that really are not in alignment with who they are.
Choosing to do things differently can take courage in a society that is quick to judge others. By teaching children not to worry about what others say, and that it’s ok to be different, they will find enjoyment and fulfilment in the things that they love and the things that they do. Everyone is unique and have their own unique gifts to share. Children should be encouraged to value their own uniqueness, and so value themselves for who they are.
Difficulties present themselves in many different ways. They can be physical or mental difficulties, they may be caused by other people or even created by your own mind. Dealing with difficulties requires resilience and a growth mindset – an outlook that helps you to learn and grow from your challenges.
Mice are very small creatures to look at, they are not to be under-estimated and are actually very strong in their own way. They may appear to be a little timid, but they are very observant and love to explore their environment and learn new things. Even though they sometimes feel scared, they accept fear and don’t let it stop them from doing what they need to do to survive and thrive. They are very resourceful and trust their instincts. Like everyone, they do make mistakes, but they learn from them and adapt how they do things. This makes them very clever and very resilient.
Teaching children that it is ok to make mistakes is so important in helping them build a growth mindset and develop resilience. A child who is scared to make mistakes is a child who is afraid to try new things, which is a fixed mindset that can follow them into adulthood and inhibit their success.
The tortoise is another great teacher of mindset. They move at a steady pace and take everything in their stride, teaching us to slow down and appreciate life. The benefit of taking life more slowly is that you get to appreciate what is happening now and what you have right now.
Gratitude helps you to recognise all the positives in your life, even when some things are not going your way. This makes you feel good about yourself and your life and promotes positive mental health. It is a great mindset to develop and an important one to nurture in your children.
Known as ‘man’s best friend,’ dogs are great teachers when it comes to friendships. They are very loyal, great company and they look after the people they love.
It is important for children to know what true friendship looks like, so that they can not only be good friends and develop great relationships with others, but they can also recognise who are good friends to them. This is important, as most children want to be liked and want to fit in with other children. However, some children can be unkind to others, inconsistent in the way they treat each other, letting them play sometimes and not others, or asking them to do things that may get them into trouble. If children aren’t taught to recognise and value true friendships, they could potentially be more vulnerable to falling in with the wrong crowds as they get older.
How children see themselves is very important when forming friendships. A child with a good level of self-esteem is more likely to stand up for themselves and make friends with people who value them. By learning how to treat others with respect children will then be able to recognise when others aren’t treating them with respect.
Dogs recognise when their people are sad and they comfort them. They stand up for the people they love and they like to play and have fun with them. They are loyal and don’t leave their friends out or make them feel sad. These are all great qualities for children to learn, as well as to recognise and value in their own friends.
Dolphins are also great animals to teach about relationships. They are very caring mammals, who are very protective of each other and can be seen helping the young, sick and elderly members of the pod. Dolphins are very sociable and interact well with other dolphins, even if they are not from the same pod. They work together to hunt and protect themselves, showing us that working as a team can be the better option sometimes.
By teaching children to turn-take, share and work well with others you will be developing key skills that they can use throughout life to ensure more success. The ability to share, compromise, take on board and build on the ideas of others, helps children to learn and grow and it facilitates the development of greater things.
A key skill when it comes to problem-solving is the ability to see things from different perspectives.
The giraffe is a great animal to teach about this. Giraffes are graceful and elegant creatures, who are very calm, peaceful and non-threatening. Because of their height, giraffes are able to see things from a different perspective to others and therefore take in the bigger picture of what is happening around them. This helps them to see the bigger picture by looking at challenges and problems from a higher perspective.
Seeing things from a different angle or perspective is so important. Not only does it enrich your understanding of a given situation, it helps you resolve problems and maintain positive relationships with other people, with whom you might be having a disagreement.
Often a problem can be much bigger than the eye can see. For those of you who play chess, you will know that you need to think two or three moves ahead in order to win the game. In doing so, you are looking at the bigger picture of what is going on and you have to try to think like your opponent to consider the moves they will make next.
Life is very much like this. When you are able to look at a situation and goal objectively and see the bigger picture of what is actually happening, you are more likely to rationalise the situation and see a clearer path towards achieving the desired outcome.
By encouraging your children to actively listen to others and try to understand their viewpoints and empathise with them, you will not only help them to understand problems better, but you will also help them to see the bigger picture, which in turn can help them to find solutions more easily. This is a wonderful skill, that will stand them in great stead throughout their lives.
The grey squirrel is another great problem-solver. Grey squirrels have adapted and overcome lots of challenges to become one of the most common creatures in the UK.
Through being creative, squirrels use the resources that are around them to their advantage. They are not restricted to the resources they expect to have or that are given to them. Squirrels travel further and faster through trees, gathering amazing views on the way. Failing isn’t an option for the grey squirrel. Have you ever seen the videos of ninja squirrels performing great feats of acrobatics to get food from a bird table? They use whatever means they can to overcome problems and achieve their goal.
Squirrels, therefore, remind you not to allow yourself to be hindered by a perceived lack of resources. Resources are everywhere. Be creative and realistic. Consider what are the basics that you need and build from there.
Whilst this is great for you to remember as adults, it’s also a great lesson to teach children, so they are not always reliant upon whatever is given to them – whether this is to entertain them or support them in achieving a goal. By encouraging your children to be creative – to make those junk model spaceships, to imagine they are riding that pony, to find information out for themselves – you will be helping them to grow into resilient young adults, who are able to find their own solutions to any problems they encounter.
Why You Need To Develop Resilience In Your Kids
Resilient kids are happy kids. Happy kids mean happy parents. It’s never too soon to start supporting your children to develop their resilience. By doing so you will set them up for a happier, healthier and more successful future ahead of them.
For more tools and strategies to support your children to develop positive mental wellbeing from a young age please visit https://wellbeing.learningfromanimals.com
Melanie Appleyard, Guest Writer Brainz Magazine
Melanie has a strong background in teaching, with a specialism in special educational needs and personal, social and health education. Having experienced childhood anxiety, and acute anxiety as an adult following a chronic illness, she knows only too well on a personal level the impact that this can have on your life and health. Having seen a growing number of children and adults experiencing mental health difficulties, she has made it her mission to do all she can to equip children with the tools and strategies that they need to manage their emotional wellbeing from a young age.