Resilient kids bounce back

Resilience — natural or learned — can help your child cope with life’s ups and downs

Every school day presents challenges for your child. What with sporting events, understanding new concepts, academic challenges, managing difficult social situations, peer pressure, failures and setbacks, your child has plenty to contend with. Your child’s ability to handle these situations will depend on their resilience. Building resilience in young people is vital for good mental health and wellbeing and the bottom line is that resilient kids bounce back.
Some children are naturally resilient; their disposition doesn’t allow them to be fazed by disappointments and setbacks. Such kids just get up, dust themselves off and keep going. But what about those children who are not naturally resilient?

The good news is that resilience can be learnt and parents can foster resilience in their children.
Being resilient doesn’t mean people suddenly lead charmed lives, magically experiencing no difficulties and distress. It just means that when life throws them a curve ball, they have the skills and techniques to cope with the circumstances.

Developing resilience in your child will mean building on a variety of strategies. A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Things like having supportive relationships, good role models, self-esteem, self-confidence, communication and problem-solving skills are all important.

You can help your child become more resilient by:

  • Having a positive attitude yourself. Optimism can be just as easily learnt as pessimism so be careful what messages you are imparting to your child.
  • Encouraging your children to try new things, give them space and support them to learn from their mistakes along the way. By encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone, you are allowing them to learn myriad coping skills.
  • Letting your children resolve issues themselves and deal with the consequences of their actions. If Johnny or Judy breaks a neighbour’s window, don’t rush to apologise and pay for the repairs yourself. Get them to apologise and work out a way they can help earn money to pay for the repairs.
  • Having realistic expectations and letting them realise there are times when we are winners and times when we are not. And that is fine. Give them permission to fail along the way. Teach your child that doing their best is all you expect of them, that perfection is not always achievable.
  • Encouraging community involvement. Helping others can help develop compassion, forgiveness, patience and self-awareness.
  • Keeping things in perspective. Encourage your child not to blow things out of proportion; the loss of a soccer match, for example, is not the end of the world.
  • Teaching your child to break down tasks into achievable chunks so they are not overwhelmed by large challenges.
  • Fostering “appropriate” ways of dealing with frustration and anger. Meditation, keeping a journal, taking a run or some other personal physical challenge can all be helpful ways for children to let off steam and learn to relax.
  • Teaching your children to put the past in the past. Just because they have failed at something or found a particular challenge difficult in the past doesn’t mean that will always be the case.
  • Giving positive feedback to your child, helping them pinpoint their strengths and develop their weaknesses.

Promoting resilience in your child will not be an overnight activity, but more like a continuing process. Ups and downs are a normal part of daily life and allowing your children to cope with them without continually bailing them out will encourage them to be more resilient each time. But it is all a matter of balance. Pick your battles and move boundaries a little at a time. It is not about leaving your child to sink or swim in the deep-end of the pool. It is about encouraging play and learning in safe waters along the way, thereby building the skills necessary to safely cope as the waters rise and the challenges get more difficult.

Image: St Catherine’s School.

Words: Donna Macpherson-Williams

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