Rearing Resilience – How do we help children ‘bounce back’ from life’s setbacks?

This is such an important life skill – managing the stresses of everyday; the larger stresses that life can bring, and learning how to move on from these setbacks. Resilience is certainly something many adults also strive to further develop and build. Some seem more resilient than others “naturally”.

So what is the key to unlocking the door to rearing resilience in our children?

Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems –Gever Tulley

Children learn through opportunity. So to build resilience, make the most of everyday life circumstances by employing some of these;

* Give your children responsibilities. Assign tasks e.g. packing away toys, filling their own water bottles, putting their shoes on – suit the task to be age appropriate of course.

* Encourage them to keep trying. “I can’t do it mum!” Tasks can be broken down into their simpler steps. Rather than jumping in and taking over when your child cannot do something, give them time to keep trying, and use words of encouragement; e.g. “you have put so many puzzle pieces together already; keep thinking, and looking at the colours and shapes”.

* Reword their unhelpful thoughts e.g. if they say “that game is too hard for me; reword with “It might be hard at the beginning; but with practice it will get easier”.

* Active listening. It is super important to pay attention to what your child is telling you. When something has gone wrong in their world; listen. Your child is communicating how they are feeling about something – so listen, talk about it; reflect back their emotion e.g. “That must have made you feel really worried…” This allows your child to feel understood; after which point see if they can tell you what they think you can do to help and/ or guide them to think about different actions to take.

* Use feeling words to help your child understand what they are experiencing, and ensure you do the same to label what you are experiencing. E.g. “I am disappointed that I missed out, but there will be a next time…”

* Highlight and develop your child’s strengths, allowing your child to feel competent, confident and successful.

* Make chores fun, and involve them in decision making. Think creatively about making the mundane motivating e.g. homework; and allow your child to take part in decision making; whether it be deciding what clothes to wear; where to go for dinner; or when trying to solve a dilemma ask “what do YOU feel we could do?” Allow your child to hear you thinking out aloud when working through a problem, to provide insight as to how you came to a particular solution.

* Practise positive thoughts, and an optimistic attitude, as it will certainly foster a similar way of thinking in your children.

Nurturing a strong positive relationship with your child is an important foundation for building resilience. Tough times and problems will occur in your child’s life – you cannot stop that; but you can help your child build the ability to ‘bounce back’.

So next time you are stuck in traffic, remember – “There are some things we cannot change – that’s life!”




Kids Matter: Australian Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative (March 2015)

Building Resilience in Children and young people – Literature Review, Dept. of Education & Early Childhood Development

Teaching your child Resilience: Justin Coulson (Kidspot)


This article was published in Shire’s Children (Summer Issue 2015) www.shireschildren.com.au

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Mother of three young children, and senior level Speech & Language Pathologist. Sonia founded a successful Sydney based private practice in 2006. She regularly presents community seminars, writes articles for parent magazines and does guest speaker gigs on community radio. Sonia enjoys writing, and hopes one day to be a published children's picture book author too!

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