Fostering Resilience in Children: Top Tips for Parents.
Resilience refers to the ability to bounce back, adapt, and recover from challenges, adversity, or stress. It is the capacity to maintain a positive and healthy mindset, emotions, and behaviours in the face of difficulties. Resilience is not about avoiding or eliminating challenges, but rather about developing skills and strengths to cope effectively with them. This is important because life if full of changes and challenges and there can be unpredictable hiccups and curveballs.
Children particularly benefit from developing resilience. Children go through so many predictable changes, e.g., a new school teacher each year, changing friendships, becoming a teenager, and they are also exposed to life challenges. Fostering resilience in children is crucial because it equips them with essential life skills, mindset, emotional strength, and strategies to navigate with confidence and optimism life's changes and challenges that they will inevitably encounter.
Parents and carers can play a particularly important role in helping build resilience in children.
Here are some top tips for parents to focus on to build resilience in children:
Be a Role Model for Resilience: Children often learn by observing their parents' behaviours and reactions. Demonstrate resilience in your own life by openly discussing your challenges and how you navigate through them. You’ll need to be careful not to overshare adult information here. Choose a situation that is appropriate for your child’s level of development that demonstrates how you embraced a positive attitude, perseverance, and problem-solving skills. By modelling resilience, you provide children with a powerful example to follow.
Encourage Independence and Autonomy: Allow children to take on age-appropriate responsibilities and encourage them to make decisions independently. Foster their autonomy by giving them opportunities to solve problems and face challenges on their own. Offer guidance and support when needed, but also allow them to experience the satisfaction of overcoming obstacles and building resilience. Sometimes we step in too quickly to help our children when we are in a rush to get something done or when we are worried that they won’t “do it right” but taking the time and allowing them space to do things really pays off. It will take longer e.g., to get those dishes done, or that lawn mowed, but when children experience themselves as competent by working out how to do things, they are more likely to develop resilience and positive mental health.
We can sometimes undermine our kid’s autonomy when we rush in to help. A good antidote to rushing is to just pause for a moment first and wait. There’s a good chance that given a bit of time and space they will work it out. Find out more about the “pause” in this blog about building resilience as a key to thriving https://www.drleoniewhite.com/post/building-resilience-in-children-a-key-to-thriving
Foster a Supportive Parent-Child Relationship: Develop a strong bond with your child built on trust, open communication, and empathy. Create a safe space for them to share their feelings, concerns, and experiences without fear of judgment. Actively listen to their perspectives and validate their emotions. A strong parent-child relationship forms the foundation for resilience, as children feel secure and supported in their journey. For more ideas on how to foster a strong relationship read this blog of the power of showing up in parenting https://www.drleoniewhite.com/post/show-up-to-grow-great-kids-leave-a-positive-family-legacy
Provide Constructive Feedback and Encouragement: When children face setbacks or make mistakes, acknowledge their concerns and feelings and then when they are feeling regulated and ready for a deeper conversation move to providing constructive feedback that focuses on their efforts, strategies, and progress rather than solely on the outcome. Help them understand that failure is a part of learning and that mistakes provide opportunities for growth. Encourage them to learn from their experiences and try again, fostering a resilient growth mindset. The timing of this conversation will be important – make sure to support any big feelings first even if this means circling back to the conversation another day.
Set Realistic Expectations and Encourage Effort: Help children set realistic goals and expectations for themselves. (And make sure you are realistic with your expectations). Teach them that success comes through effort, perseverance, and resilience rather than instant achievement. Celebrate their progress along the way and acknowledge their efforts, regardless of the outcome. By emphasizing the value of hard work and resilience, you instil the belief that they can learn things with practice and that they can overcome challenges.
Provide a Balanced Environment: Expose children to a variety of experiences, both positive and challenging. While it's definitely natural to want to protect them from adversity, shielding them too much or rescuing too much can hinder the development of their competence and resilience. Life will always involve changes and challenges. When you allow them to face manageable risks and obstacles, you gradually increase their ability to cope with difficulties. Balancing support and challenges helps children develop confidence in their ability to handle adversity. This can be tough to watch as a parent so make sure to take a breath, get support from other parents and be kind to yourself.
Teach Emotional Regulation and Problem-Solving: Help children understand and regulate their emotions. Model and teach effective strategies for managing stress and anxiety, such as deep breathing exercises or engaging in calming activities. Model labelling emotions and encourage them to identify the emotions they are experiencing and help them find constructive ways to express and cope with them. Additionally, teach them problem-solving strategies to approach challenges with a logical and systematic mindset.
Parents and carers play a vital role in fostering resilience in children. By being role models, providing a supportive environment, encouraging independence, and teaching them essential life skills, you empower them to develop resilience. Remember, building resilience is an ongoing process and a relational process, and by implementing these strategies, you set your children on a path to navigate challenges, embrace growth, and thrive in all aspects of life.
Which strategies are you already using?
Which ones would you like to add to your parenting toolkit?
Dr Leonie White - Clinical Family Therapist and Psychologist
Helping people grow, connect and thrive in life’s unique journey.
Please note - this article is educational in nature and does not constitute therapy advice.
Please seek help from a professional if you require support.
For more information here are some resources: American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Building your resilience. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience Raising Children Network: https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/resilience-how-to-build-it-in-children-3-8-years https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/development/social-emotional-development/resilience-in-teens https://www.maggiedent.com/blog/episode-8-how-to-raise-a-resilient-child-parental-as-anything-abc-podcast/ https://www.maggiedent.com/common-concerns/building-resilience/ https://au.reachout.com/ Dent, M. (2016). Building Children’s Resilience: One Building Block at a Time. Pennington Publications: Murwillumbah NSW.