How to Build Resilience in Your Child
One of the most important skills your child learns as they grow up is resilience. Resilience is the ability to cope and thrive in the face of negative events, challenges or adversity.
It’s not something they’re born with but it’s something they develop and the earlier your child starts to build resilience, the better they will cope as they move on to school and go through the ups and downs of life.
One of our roles as teachers is to nurture resilience in our children. We do this by building a child’s sense of belonging at kindergarten, valuing their contribution to the kindergarten community, respecting their views and opinions, fostering a positive self-image and supporting problem solving and social competence. However, your child doesn’t just develop resilience at kindergarten but in every aspect of their lives. As a parent, you’re the most important person in your child’s life and therefore have the greatest influence in helping them build resilience.
Below we’ll look at what resilience is in more detail, why it is so important to your child’s future success, and how you can support your child in developing resilience.
What is resilience?
When something bad happens to your child how do they respond? Resilience is what allows them to accept what has just happened and react in a positive way, instead of letting the event get them down.
Key attributes of resilience in children include social competence, a sense of agency or responsibility, attachment to family, to kindy and to learning, optimism and positive self-esteem. When children are resilient, they are braver, more curious, more adaptable, and more able to extend their reach into the world. The great news is that resilience is something that can be nurtured in all children.
The importance of building resilience in children
Like any skill, the earlier you start working on it, the better you’ll be.
Resilience is no different and resilient children grow up, in general, to be healthier, have happier relationships, be more successful, and are less likely to experience depression. It is not just a skill for the future, though. The more resilient your child is, the better they will cope with every aspect of their preschool life.
Preschool is full of changes and new experiences, like attending kindy or the arrival of a new sibling.
Resilience helps them adapt, accept and look forward to change, as opposed to fearing it.
Your child is exposed to new social situations, including making new friends.
Coping with teasing and bullying and reacting positively is an important skill.
From tying shoelaces to painting, your child is constantly learning.
Resilience enables them to persevere when they don’t get it right the first time. Particularly if they see other children have already mastered it.
Demonstrating a skill or performing in front of others can be scary – even for us adults!
With resilience, your child will be more comfortable in these situations.
Whether it is the loss of a friend, family member or pet, resilience helps your child get through this difficult time and thrive afterwards.
How to support your child in building resilience
While children will build natural resilience on their own, as a parent it is important you support and help them. Adversity and problems are necessary to build resilience but throwing your child in the deep end (so to speak) is not an effective way to help your child develop resilience. Instead, here are 8 things you can do to support your child in building resilience.
1. Develop a strong emotional connection with them
If your child knows they have your support, they’ll have the confidence to persevere and succeed in difficult situations. The best way to develop this emotional connection is through spending one-on-one time with them.
2. Allow healthy risk-taking
It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to protect your child from everything. However, it is important for building resilience that your child is comfortable taking risks. Healthy-risk taking is something that is out of your child’s comfort zone but, if it isn’t successful, has very minimal consequences. For example, trying a new sport or activity.
3. Instead of fixing, ask questions and teaching problem-solving
Our natural reaction to being asked a question or to solve a problem is to answer or try and fix the situation. A better response is to ask questions to allow your child to think about and try and solve the problem themselves. Helping them with this process of working through the problem teaches them problem-solving skills, which are an important part of resilience.
4. Label emotions
All feelings are important. Teach your children that whatever emotions they feel are okay and by labelling them (angry, sad, frustrated etc.) it will help them understand what they are experiencing and that these negative emotions won’t last.
5. Coping skills
It can be helpful to teach your child coping skills, like deep breathing, that they can use when faced with tough situations.
6. Mistakes are okay
Embracing instead of fearing failure is an important skill for your child to learn. This starts with them learning that it is okay to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and as long as we learn from the mistake then it is not a bad thing. As a parent, you also need to show your child that you don’t expect them to be perfect and will unconditionally love and accept them, whether they’ve made a mistake or not.
7. Be positive
Explain to your child how there are positives in everyone situation and that it’s better to focus on these as opposed to being pessimistic and dwelling on the negative.
8. Be a role model
Your child looks up to you and you’re the biggest role model in their life. If they see you showing resilience and demonstrating the points above, then they will want to emulate you. So, when you find yourself in a difficult situation, make sure you react in the right way, particularly if your child is watching or listening. If appropriate, you may be able to use the incident as a teaching example – discussing how you feel, how you could have reacted positively or negatively, and how you decided to solve the problem.
In summary, resilience is a critical skill for your child to be successful, both now and in the future. Resilience is what enables them to bounce back and do well when faced with a tough situation. The earlier they start to develop resilience, the more resilient they will become and the better able to handle their transition to school and other major events as they go through life. While building resilience is an important part of our curriculum at kindy, your child also learns resilience at home and you are their biggest role model and teacher.
We recommend using the 8 things mentioned in this post to support your child in developing their resilience.