Building Resilience in Young Children

Resilience. We hear it often, usually in regard to children and that they need to learn some, but what does it mean, and how can you teach your child to be resilient without stopping their emotional development?

Beyond Blue notes resilience, particularly in children, to be their “ability to cope with ups and downs and bounce back from the challenges they experience during childhood.” The types of challenges a child might face will differ from age to age; for a young child, it might be moving to a different room with new educators and new children at day care. For older children, it may be moving to a new house, dealing with the death of a parent or grandparent or studying for an exam.

You may wonder why it is important to develop resilience from such a young age, but if you take some time to think about it, learning how to deal with certain situations is lifelong education. Starting young allows children to develop skills and habits that help them deal with challenges as they move into adolescence and adulthood.

Where Do Children Learn Resilience?

Is it innate or is it something you specifically need to sit down and teach them? It’s both. In part, resilience is shaped by the characteristics we are born with, so our genes, our temperament and our personality. It is also partly shaped by our environment and those around us including our family, friends and community. We can’t change the biological make up of a child, but the environmental factors can be changed.

Melbourne Child Psychology notes that developmental psychologist, Emmy Werner, discovered a number of predictors for resilience which points to why some people seem naturally resilient to the challenges happening around them. Werner found two points in the research. Firstly, that resilience can develop from the environment, such as building strong bonds with parents and other supportive caregivers, whether that be their mother, father, teacher, or someone else.

Secondly, Werner found that “resilient children tend to have an internal locus of control”. We know that really doesn’t make a lot of sense, but essentially what it means is that children who are resilient tend to know they are in control of their own destiny.

 How Do You Help a Child Develop Resilience?

Despite there being some resilience that develops naturally through the personality of the child, resilience is certainly an area that can be taught as a child develops. At home, it can be relatively simple to help your child develop resilience, especially if you have younger children.

Helping your child to develop a growth mindset is one way to develop resilience whatever your child’s age. A growth mindset allows a child to view all their efforts to learn something as being valuable on its own rather than only being valuable if they achieve what they were working towards. For a younger child, it may be learning the steps to climbing whereby they will learn the ways that work and don’t work, and the steps they need to take rather than focussing on the outcome alone. For older children, it may be based around exams, whereby a resilient child knows that the effort to learn the material is just as valuable as the outcome of the exam.

Reading stories that demonstrate resilience is one recommendation from Life Education.  Books like “The Little Engine That Could” is a great option for children. If you haven’t read the book yourself, the Little Engine struggles to get up and over the hill with a heavy load of toys. The Little Engine starts to make a game to beat her challenges – she sets herself mini challenges such as getting past the next tree or getting to the next herd of cows. Eventually, she got up and over the hill. Books like this show that it is possible to get over any challenges your child may face.

As parents we naturally want to protect our children from getting hurt. But making mistakes is a great way to learn resilience. Sitting with your child while they are learning to read and struggle to read the words that make a sentence is a challenge for children, but by showing patience, prompting them to look at the picture and sounding out the words is a great way of showing them what it means to learn. Watch their sense of achievement when they do manage to pull the right words together; it’s pretty special when they realise they have overcome their challenges on their own.

At Treasured Tots, our Wellness Program focusses a lot on building resilience in children. We believe in promoting a sense of holistic wellness and balance for the mind, body and soul to the children we care for. We encourage our children to be expressive, confident and mindful, giving them the coping skills and the capacity to manage challenges that they may find as they grow further.

Want to find out more about our Wellness Program available to all children at Treasured Tots? Make an appointment to speak to our team members to find out how our Wellness Program could be beneficial for your child.