Building resilience in young children

How teaching resilience to children gets them to ‘bounce back’ after a challenge

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Recently, I heard my little one say, “This is too hard, I can’t do it!” and then get frustrated about the task and walk away from it. I’m sure you as a parent have heard this too or experienced some form of this and wondered what to do. If you have, fret not, because most of us have gone through this in some way or another. The best way to combat this is to help develop and promote resilience in our young children.

Resilience refers to the ability to ‘bounce back’ after a challenge or tough times.

I’m going to list here a few ways with which we can promote resilience in our children.

Strong relationships are the cornerstone of resilience
When our children know they have a strong circle of security to rely on, they will confidently bounce back from setbacks that they may face. Therefore, it is imperative that we as parents forge strong bonds with our children. We must also encourage the building and maintaining of relationships with relatives, educators, friends and the outside community in them. This will make them more confident and also make them feel loved, secure and provide them with a sense of belonging.

Model resilience
As parents, we are the first role models for our children. So, the way we deal with any setbacks, problems, or disappointments becomes the mirror for them to follow. Therefore, it is important to show our children that we have problems too or that we too can make mistakes.

Here’s an example:
Parent: “Oh dear, I forgot my wallet today. Oopsies.” There is no hype in this statement. It is merely a statement of fact which shows that problems are just that, problems.

Secondly, it is important to show them how to resolve the problem. Using the example from above, here is what we could say:
Parent: “Now what shall we do? Hmm, I think we might need to go home and grab the wallet.”

In this way, we have shown our children that we are also fallible, and provided them with a practical, appropriate and suitable way to solve the problem as well as move on.

Allow your children to experience challenges and disappointments

As parents, our instinct is to shield our children from problems. The better solution is to support our children instead. Here are some examples.

  • When your child breaks a toy, let them face the disappointment of this versus rushing out to replace the toy.
  • When your child doesn’t get what they want (eg for their birthday/mealtimes etc), let them feel the emotions and talk to them about how they are feeling versus fixing the
    problem for them.

Overcoming these small challenges will help to build our child’s resilience for bigger setbacks.

Help your children to develop problem-solving skills
As parents, we can teach our children developmentally appropriate problem-solving skills when they are faced with scenarios that are difficult.

An example of such a scenario: A child was unkind to your child in the playground. Your child is now upset.

Now, how do you help your child to resolve this with resilience?

  • Let your child feel the emotions that they need to feel
  • Talk to them about how they are feeling and support them through this
  • Brainstorm with them ways on what they could do the next time this happens
  • Re-enact scenario with puppets and watch them put into practice what they have learnt

Encourage your children to have another go
It is important to support and encourage our children to keep trying and having another go when they can’t get it the first time. Praise them for the efforts of trying using phrases like “Well done for giving it another go.” Another way to do this is to create a habit or ritual of recognising and acknowledging positive incidents that have occurred during the day by each of the family members. This could be done at meal times.

Doing the above will help to build on our children’s compassion as well as show them how to be kind to themselves. This will enable them to face their setbacks in a more positive light. All of the five ways presented here are great at promoting resilience. Building resilience from a young age will build confidence in our young children to deal with the next challenges that come their way.

READ ALSO: Teaching kids 3-5 to manage their own conflicts

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Neha Jain
Neha Jain
Neha is an educator and a mum based in Sydney. She writes on parenting and lifestyle.

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