Why is it that some children seem to rise above challenges and bounce back positively from them? We’ve all seen those children in the playground who take a tumble, get straight back up, brush themselves off and get on with their day – completely unfazed.
The truth is these children are showing their natural resilience. This is a built-in capacity to deal with setbacks or disappointment and not let these factors stop them having fun.
Children with resilience enjoy many benefits. They can ask for help when they need it, change their plans to accommodate the day, use strategies to manage their emotions, keep trying if something doesn’t work out – and generally cope with the challenges life throws at them more easily.
Not every child is naturally resilient
Not all children are born with this resilience, so it’s important that they develop it. It can help deal with potentially stressful situations, such as starting a new childcare centre, going to school or making friends in the playground.
A child’s personality can play a big part in whether they need more support in developing resilience, but external factors are also a guiding factor.
Parents in particular have an active role in helping their children develop resilience throughout their lives. As adults, we all need to be aware of how we deal with stressful situations, because children learn by watching our reactions.
How can you build resilience in children?
There’s no short-cut to building resilience, so don’t be disappointed if your efforts return little reward at first. It’s a skill that builds up throughout life, but here are some good starting points:
- Praise your child for effort and persistence, even if they don’t achieve the desired outcome. It will help them to try, try and try again.
- Ensure your child is surrounded by caring relationships. When a child feels loved, supported and accepted, it’s easier for them to get through the hard times.
- Be a good role model by being patient, using humour, keeping calm, staying positive and controlling emotions. Children will model this behaviour.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Community groups may offer courses to help parents learn to reduce stress, manage challenging behaviour or support special needs.
- Teach your child to take deep breaths when they’re feeling stressed, find a quiet place to calm down, ask for help, or switch to something they enjoy doing.
- Help children to understand that their feelings are okay. It means they can express their frustration or worry more easily.
- Allow children to problem solve and work out ways of dealing with their own issues.
- Build up your child’s confidence by encouraging them to keep trying, to find out what their strengths are and to learn that mistakes are okay.
- Take time out to allow children to play and have fun. This enables them to build confidence, solve problems and master new skills.
- Encourage children to laugh and have fun. This helps them to look at the bright side of situations and feel positive.
Teachers and educators at Goodstart spend a lot of time emotion-coaching and helping children to build their resilience. It’s an important skill for the transition to school, as well as being useful in their later life.