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Helping children become more resilient

Resilient children are more successful not only academically but also socially because their mindset sees setbacks as a natural part of life and learning. If they’re not picked for the team, they know there will be a next time, if they do poorly in a test they know they can do better in the next test, and if they fall out with a friend, they know they will eventually make up and in the meantime have other friends to play with. These children experience the same setbacks, disappointments, and heartache as other children; the difference is they just handle the stresses more confidently because they approach life with an optimistic mindset. Whilst some children seem to have resilience by the bucket load, other children really struggle. If your child has a tendency to give up easily, or they see setbacks as flaws in their character, they might benefit from your help in these five key areas;

Encouraging Goal Setting

Breaking a task down into smaller more manageable steps is key to developing resilience. This way your child experiences small wins along the way, alongside the inevitable setbacks, yet they can see the clear path to achieving the bigger goal. Imagine a ladder with multiple rungs, at the top of the ladder is the end goal and each rung represents the smaller milestones they need to achieve along the way. Help your child create a list of these milestones, discuss how they will achieve them, and then celebrate each success along the way. Setbacks can be discussed and new rungs added, if necessary, or adjustments made. Model regular goal setting practice with your own personal ambitions so your child learns it’s a natural, normal part of life.

Promote Problem Solving

When your child comes home with a problem don’t rush in with a solution; instead coach them to find their own solutions. If your child is used to you telling them what to do every time they will never own their problems or know how to go about finding workable solutions.  It’s key your child understands there are no right or wrong solutions just best guesses based on the available information at that time. So when they fall out with a friend ask them what they might do about it the next day, encourage them to consider multiple solutions, and to think through the possible implications of each. They can then choose one they want to try first and feedback to you the next day. Whatever happens they will have learnt something valuable for next time.

Encourage Risk Taking

Children need to become used to taking a few risks along the way, as these usually yield the most reward. Taking a risk doesn’t imply reckless behaviour; just something outside your child’s natural comfort zone. If you have a particularly shy child then a risk may well be putting their hand up in class and answering a question they’re not entirely sure of the answer to. The risk in this situation is they might get it wrong, with the inevitable worries about what the other children might say or think of them.  When they see no one laughs, or thinks any less of them for trying, they will have learnt it’s safe to take these sorts of risks.

Practice Daily Gratitude

It is key to reflect back on each day and identify all the positives, rather than our natural tendency to continually replay and churn over what didn’t go to plan. Research has shown it is the process of writing down what you are grateful for, which is most effective; simply verbalising it isn’t enough. So encourage your children to write down 3 things which they are grateful for in a small notebook, just before they go to bed. Gratitude is another way of asking them for 3 things which they are thankful for. These are not meant to be big things, like getting 100% in a test. They should be the little things, like a teacher smiling at them, the sunshine on their back as they played football, a friend saying thank you and so on. It’s the little things which matter.

Develop Good Friendships 

Good friendships are a critical support system when facing life’s inevitable challenges. They contribute to a sense of belonging and knowledge that others are there for you when you need them. Helping children build and develop strong friendships is where we can help as parents. The obvious ways we can help is by organising play dates, or encouraging our children to play with neighbours’ children and children they meet at outside school activities. There are also a whole host of skills we can help promote at home, which are key to good friendships such a turn-taking, empathy, negotiation, and good listening skills.




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