Developing resilience in your child
Teachers talk about how you can help your child develop the skills to bounce back from disappointment.
(Please note, this video refers to everyday disappointments and the complaints of "That's not fair!" we often hear from our kids when things don't go their way. If, however, your child is being bullied, please look at our section on 'Bullying advice for parents'.)
At a glance
- Resilience needs to be taught to kids.
- Resilience helps your child bounce back.
- Commend your child for the things they're good at.
- Kids notice how well you handle stress and challenges and then copy your behaviour.
- Extracurricular activities help develop social skills.
- LIfe isn't fair. Teach your child how to accept that and adapt to challenging circumstances.
Growing up can be tough – so how can you help your child to develop resilience?
Things don't always go to plan, as adults we have skills to deal with these things. I think we need to take a step back and specifically teach kids to be resilient.
Resilience is about bouncing back, in terms of problems that they might come across in life, being able to turn around, brush yourself off and start again. And be able to interact effectively with their peers.
You need to focus on a child's strengths, rather than waiting for a problem to occur and deal with the problem – look at the positives all the time.
An example would be if you have a child who comes home and they're feeling picked on, rather than addressing the issue of "you're picked on" let's look at the whole day. What happened in that day? What was good about the day? What are the positives about that child. [For example say,] "You've got these friends", rather than focusing on the negative issue.
When we're complimenting children, we need to make sure that the compliments are genuine and for things that they actually are good at. Don't make things up to make them feel good about themselves.
It's important you don't take children for fools. Telling them every day that they're great at everything doesn't work. Kids know what they're good and what they're not good at.
We all have strengths, they're all in different areas and I think it's important for little people to know what they're good at and to accept what they're not so good at.
Involve them in outdoor activities [where] they're able to socialise, extracurricular activities where they can actually bond with friends and different people in different contexts and situations. I think school is a safe haven for many children so putting them out in different environments is a good way of developing resilience because they've had to react to different people in different ways.
I think there's definitely a link between physical activity and self-esteem and confidence.
By being in a team, they learn how to communicate, they learn how to interact, they learn how to problem solve. And so in sporting situations, all those skills get developed.
I guess as a parent that you should try and encourage your child to have a go at everything and not put the focus on whether or not you'll be good at it, but let's go and try something.
You need to teach them how to be a good person, and then remind them that they are a good person.
That's the most important thing. They don't have to be great at soccer. They don't have to be good at maths or reading or have all the latest gadgets.
They do have to know that deep down they're a good person, and that's what will give them the confidence they need to be resilient.
I think sometimes as parents we get a bit too overprotective. We jump in too quickly sometimes, so our children don't make mistakes. Children will make mistakes. We make mistakes and we learn from those mistakes.
It's all a part of that resilience building, isn't it, that if you do make a mistake you can then laugh it off and think "OK, what can I learn from that?". And next time you come across a situation like that, you might do things better.
When kids – not fail, but when things don't always work out the way you want them to, that's a learning opportunity. You can't always succeed all the time. You can't always get 100 per cent, but that informs you on where you need to go and what you need to do so it can be a really good, positive thing to not always get it right.
I think the big thing with resilience is we can't make everything fair. I think sometimes parents go out of their way to make a child's day, life, week fair. Life isn't fair and rather than trying to make things fair for your children, it's more beneficial to teach your children how to cope with things when they're not fair.
Generally if a child can accept something's not fair, that doesn't mean it's okay, but lots of things happen in this world that aren't fair. No one can change that, and as a parent we need to teach from that situation, help our children to deal with that.
And I think it's so important that we teach children values, we teach them to respect each other.
Show them what respect looks like – what does respect sound like when you're talking to someone else?
If a child is resilient, then they have a lot of self-esteem. They seem to be able to cope with any situation that comes up, so it's very good for a child to be resilient and calm.
When a parent is modelling that calmness that's showing their children that they should be resilient.
I think the most important thing for parents to help build resilience in their children is to listen to them and to make sure that if they've got problems to help them out, but when they do have problems, not make bigger problems out of them.
If there is a big enough problem that they need to go to the school, go and talk to them. But what they need to do is to say, "It's alright. Tomorrow is going to be okay. We'll talk about it, I'll support you," and, "Tomorrow's a new day, let's give it another go," and be positive with them and to make sure they're feeling comfortable with the situation. That it's not a scary thing. They can pick it up and go on with it the next day.
First things parents will often ask is, "How was your day at school?" and you get the standard answer, "Nothing happened, didn't do anything".
A really good response, when your children come home is, "What was the highlight of your day?"
So you've got that positive focus to start talking about. Get the children talking. Keep those lines of communication open with your children, particularly as they get older.
I think there's a lot of things that kids want from parents, but they don't ask for them
We need to talk, we need to listen and we need to create that opportunity for talking and listening and that is hard in our busy, busy lives.
Find time to do things together. Go for a walk together. If I can't get my kids to talk about something that's going on that's obviously bothering them, I will take them for a drive somewhere to "do something" and in the car often they will talk – and often it's because there's no eye contact. Because I'm driving and they're talking.
There are more videos and articles about developing your child's social skills at www.schoolatoz.com.au
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