How to raise resilient kids

Father with young boy on his shoulders

At a glance

  • It's important for your child to know how to turn things around when the going gets tough.
  • Children with good resilience perform better at school.
  • Children with good resilience are less likely to take part in risky behaviour.
  • NSW public schools teach resilience skills to children from Kindergarten to high school.
  • Helping a child feel successful is an important aspect of resilience.

Next time your child is furrowing their brow and staring off into space, ask them if they're thinking dolphin or shark thoughts. That's the advice from psychologist and resilience specialist Andrew Fuller on helping your child to recognise the positive (dolphin) or negative (shark) approaches they may be taking on life issues.

"Dolphin thinking can help you out and shark thinking can eat you up. It doesn't matter how old your kids are, they can still understand it," Andrew says.

Dolphin thinking and shark thinking is just one in a series of simple tools you can use to help your child develop good resilience skills. Other tools include playing games and puzzles with your child to develop their problem-solving and concentration skills, teaching your child to read people's emotions to understand objective situations, and helping them to learn how to cheer themselves up after a hard day.

Learning to become successful is one of the most important aspects of building resilience.

"The things that are most important are teaching children what a good life is, how to live life well, how to extract pleasure out of things and how to turn things around when they're tough," Andrew says.

Benefits of resilience

Skills in resilience are promoted in NSW Public Schools because through them children fare well in life. Research shows children with good resilience perform better at school and are less likely to take part risky behaviour, particularly as they enter the teenage years.

The education department's principle psychologist, Ron Balderston, describes resilience as a shock absorber for the potholes of life.

"Resilient children know how to cope and have developed skills that enable them to flex so they can manage life's blows when they happen without them getting too down, stuck on ways that aren't helping or giving up," Ron says.

Andrew says learning to become successful is one of the most important aspects of building resilience.

"Success is contagious and if you have a feeling you can be successful in one avenue of your life then the likelihood of that ricocheting into other areas of your life is high."

Top tips on building resilience

  • Teach your child to experience success by supporting them in something they like doing whether it's a sporting, academic or artistic endeavour.
  • Help them develop skills to be successful at school such as having a good concentration and memory by playing card games and puzzles.
  • Being able to read people's emotions is powerfully predictive of how well children can get on with people at school. Play games with your child by predicting what sort of day a person walking down the street may have had.
  • Be aware of the ‘yuk and yum' factor – some things will make your child feel good and other things will make them feel bad. The idea is for them to gather things around them that cheer them up if they've had a bad day.
  • Keep things in perspective – explain to a grumpy child their circumstances are not the worst possible, and that others have been through similar situations. Walk beside them as they handle the situation. This helps them to build hope and the belief they can handle problems when they come up.


Source: Andrew Fuller


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