If your child struggles when things don’t go their way or if they encounter change or something unfamiliar, working on their resilience skills may help them to cope more easily.

As parents, it’s perfectly natural for us to want to protect our children and keep them safe, but at times we take this need to protect too far! We’ve learnt to live in a fear-driven society and the pressure on parents and unrealistic expectations on children to behave like ‘young adults’ contributes to this need to overprotect. As a result, we limit our kids’ ability to explore and navigate their world without close supervision because they might physically or emotionally injure themselves or make the wrong decision.

Let’s backtrack for a second!

When we think back to when our children were about 12 months old and learning to walk, we let them fall; we knew they would get upset by this experience, but we also knew that they would get back up and that is how they would eventually learn how to walk. The same is true for other aspects of a child’s life.

Resilience is our ability to successfully bounce back from adversity and return to pre-crisis status asap! It is a necessary skill for coping with the inevitable that life throws our way and a great ingredient for our future successes. It requires us to express how we feel emotionally and control our actions so we are able to move forward with a plan of action. Resilience is extremely important as it helps us understand the factors that help children develop into mentally healthy adults.

So, you may be wondering what tips and tricks can be used to help develop resilience in our kids.

Essentially, we need to allow our children to experience negative emotions (such as disappointment) and help them to lose well. By allowing our children to understand what it feels like to lose or not get their way, it gives them the opportunity to become emotionally competent. It is crucial we validate those negative emotions and encourage ways to soothe them into an appropriate action plan.

By teaching your child how to be resilient, you won’t have to come to the rescue all the time! (Image via Kids Helpline.)

Here are other ways we can promote resilience include:

1. Teaching social-emotional skills

Encourage children to talk about how they are feeling. Listen with empathy so they feel understood. Help them see that feelings are normal and that it is important to understand them.

2. Encourage problem-solving skills

Ask questions that help children think of alternative solutions to support their thinking and problem-solving skills. When problems arise, you can explore them together by asking questions, such as: “What could you do about that?” or “What do you think might happen if you try that?”

3. Promote independence at home and give children choices

This assists in their development of responsibility as children need practice in making choices that are appropriate for their age and experience level. Involving children in family decision-making helps them develop skills for responsible decision making and encourages cooperative family relationships.

4. Encourage an optimistic and positive mindset

Show children how to confidently and respectfully communicate their thoughts, feelings and needs to others in an assertive way, for example: “I really don’t want to play that game. It’s too dangerous. Let’s play a different game instead.”

5. Useful questions to ask

When our children are confronted with a situation that wasn’t expected, it’s beneficial for us to teach them to ask themselves the following questions (which may require your help at first):

  1. What can be done to get back on track?
  2. As I can’t control everything, what is in my control right now?
  3. Am I able to change something I am doing to make things better?
  4. What can I learn from this situation?
  5. Who can help me?
  6. How can I move forward from this?

By asking ourselves these questions and experiencing challenges in life, we are able to develop resilience and acknowledge the inner strength we never knew we had all along!

If your child needs help developing their resilience, they can join us at our Social Skills and Self-Regulation holiday groups, where we work on developing resilience. You can also get in touch with us to see how one of our team of Occupational Therapists can help your child through one-on-one sessions.