7+ strategies for building resilience in children

An upset school girl is a victim of bullying, as her peers taunt her in the background

One way in which parents can help children build resilience and cope with the effects of difficult situations is by being a positive influence and showing them how to deal with the ups and downs of life.

As part of our Parent Support Services at Spurgeons we share parenting skills to equip us all to help our children, but also, and just as importantly, help us look after ourselves.

How to build resilience in children - tips and strategies

1. Acceptance

The primary step in helping our children cope in difficult situations or dealing with any kind of trauma, is equipping them with a solid foundation of emotional resilience by ensuring that they feel accepted at home.

It is vital that we accept our children for who they are, no matter how different they are from us or how we wish them to be. When our children feel accepted for who they are, they are more able to cope with stress and adversity.

2. Supporting children in building resilience

It’s important to make time to talk to our children and to spend quality time with them.

Even if your child is having difficulty opening up, we must make sure they know we will be there for them when they are ready to talk. This lets your child know that you are providing a constant cushion of support and help whenever they need it.

It’s also important not to avoid discussions about difficult life events. They need to know that they can talk about upsetting things should they wish to and that the subject is always open.

There is no such thing as wrong feelings and however they feel and whatever they need to talk about, needs to be open for discussion.

3. Empathy

Showing empathy to a child in times of hardship will do wonders to help them in building resilience, and gradually open their minds to a greater understanding of others. This will help them look past their own immediate emotional reaction to any given situation.

For example, if a child has been affected by a close friend at school, ask them what happened and how it made them feel. Empathise with them and recognise their hurt feelings, but also discuss what may have made that child react that way.

Encouraging your child to think about how others may be feeling helps them to empathise with others. It also enables them to acknowledge whether they had a part to play in the situation, consciously or not.  They will learn from how you take time to understand them, and use this to better understand others and build stronger relationships.

4. Mistakes and consequences

Making mistakes is a part of life, and we all need to make mistakes in order to learn from them. Hearing that our child has upset a school friend can be frustrating, however we need to understand that they will make mistakes, and to help them learn from them.

We can also encourage them to consider the consequences that we have gained from a lifetime of learning.

Consider how you yourself deal with mistakes you make. Do you beat yourself up? Or have a “live and learn” attitude? Forgiving yourself and finding your own resilience will help your child to see that it is possible.

5. Shaping their individuality

Helping children to find something that interests them and that they can immerse themselves in is a gift that can positively change their lives. Getting them to try out a range of hobbies and activities brings about new possibilities and improves their levels of happiness and self-esteem. However, as parents we should be flexible in our expectations of them.

If their chosen interest differs from what we wish for them to be doing, for example, learning to play an instrument, we must nevertheless show enthusiasm for their individual choice.

A resilient young woman ascending an indoor rock climbing wall

6. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a powerful tool in helping children to calm themselves down when distressed or feeling aggressive.

There are a number of great apps which provide child-friendly meditations, as well as relaxation cds which are a great way to wind down, particularly before bedtime.

7. Promote problem-solving skills

To equip children with important problem-solving skills, we must show them that there are a variety of possible responses to situations. When they are faced with a difficulty, it is helpful to sit down with them and discuss the various ways they could react.

If, for example, they are being insulted at school, what different ways could they respond- they might, for example, joke back, or maybe tell their friend how their words are hurtful. Could they choose a different friend to spend time with?

By modelling flexibility, we teach children to consider different responses to problems. We can also teach them to think about when they should ask for help, from teachers, peers, or their parents.

8. Boost their confidence through love and encouragement

It is incredible how much confidence we can give our children through our words of encouragement, complimenting them on a job well done, and giving them love and affection. Knowing they have your unconditional love and support, and that you’ll always be their cheerleader, helps with building resilience in children, and teaching them how to cope with life’s difficulties.

A boy affectionately holding a small dog

Building resilience in children

Stress, trauma and emotional upheaval caused by life events are going to impact your child at some point. Building resilience strengthens their ability to effectively cope, adjust, or recover from stress or adversity. How you deal with a life crisis will impact how your children learn to react or, learn what to expect.

As parents, how we deal with situations can stem from issues from our own childhood. These can be worked through in counselling, or if issues are resolved but behaviours remain, a parenting course could help develop strong coping mechanisms. Your resilience is important, and your well-being and happiness is too.

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