Resilience. We know the value of being able to bounce back from difficult challenges and adapt to life’s ups and downs, but are some people naturally more bulletproof than others or can resilience be taught?
The good news is that everyone can learn resilience skills - regardless of their age.
That said, the earlier that parents, educators and caregivers start helping young children start building resilience skills, the better. Life’s not always a bed of roses and the sooner a child learns to respond and adapt to challenges with positivity and hopefulness, the more likely they’ll be able to persevere through tough times as they go through life.
What you can do to help your child build resilience
Adversity for a young child can be many different things - moving home, starting school, friendship issues, bullying, a breakdown in family relationships, not being chosen for a team activity, difficulty mastering a new skill, overhearing a conversation about a traumatic event - and it can leave them feeling sad, anxious, uncertain, helpless, fearful, lonely and defeated.
There are many things that parents and caregivers can do to help a child acknowledge their emotions, learn to stand up for themselves, cope with whatever difficulties they face and bounce back after challenging times.
Top tips for building resilience in young children
Setting a strong foundation early on with respect to positive and healthy habits, attitudes and skills in the face of adversity will help children handle tough situations and prevail.
Focus on building strong and positive relationships
Children need nurturing. They thrive on a network of caring connections which make them feel safe, secure and strong - and these relationships could be with parents, family members, friends, teachers, healthcare professionals etc. When a child has the security of trusted, loving adults who provide them with gentle reassurance and non-judgmental encouragement, they’re more likely to respond strongly to difficult times.
Help a child learn that they’re in control of their response
Getting angry or sad at a situation won’t change the situation, but changing the way you respond will change the way you feel about it. The key here is communication. Talk to your child, listen to them, acknowledge and validate their feelings and discuss ways they could shift their response. Discuss ways to mitigate the problem (for example, if a friendship is strained, perhaps suggest a different companion to play with or if they can’t do an activity, suggest a different approach to solve the problem) and help them understand that they are in control. For very young children, play is the best way to encourage them to express their emotions.
Encourage them to believe in themselves
Talk to your child about the things they’re good at. Get them to list their strengths for you. Focus on the positives and remind them often that they are capable. Self-belief doesn’t only come from within - it is strengthened by what you hear from others, so invest in your child’s self-esteem and independence.
Empower them to take on new challenges
A confident child will be better equipped to manage adversity, so encourage them to take on new challenges or try new activities. They’ll feel good when they accomplish new things - and even if they don’t (which you should emphasise to them is also OK), they’ll have the security of loving relationships as a safety net and will feel good about themselves for giving things a go. Giving a child responsibilities is another way of empowering them and making them feel valued.
Routines are not only important for children, they’re comforting too. Structure and consistency in a young child’s day gives them something familiar to lean into when they’re facing tough times.
Teach your child mindfulness
Mindfulness tends to be seen as an ‘adult’ concept, but it can be an extremely valuable life skill for young people too. Teaching children about mindfulness can lead to many good things including better self-esteem, emotional regulation, greater happiness, more effective responses to stress and uncertainty, successful conflict resolution and of course, greater resilience. You may find this article on mindfulness in early learning helpful.
Demonstrate resilience yourself
Children are like sponges, constantly absorbing what they see and hear. When adults around them demonstrate resilience and patience, a child is more likely to mirror that behaviour. Take the time to explain your responses to your child, be honest about your emotions and use simple terms to help them understand what being resilient means. Changes and challenges in life are inevitable - it’s how we choose to respond that determines the outcome.
Does an early learning centre have a role to play in teaching resilience?
Absolutely! Daily life at childcare or an early learning centre can have a profound effect on the way a young child responds to challenges.
The space should provide a loving, nurturing environment for every child where the educators continually promote the development of key skills like resilience. The team should also be ultra vigilant with every child in their care and should work in partnership with parents as collaborators and advocates to ensure the child’s holistic wellbeing.
Here at Evoke Early Learning, we pride ourselves in safe and nurturing environments that promote knowledge and inspire a life-long love of learning. Resilience is one of the many benefits of our Reggio Emilia-inspired approach, along with responsibility, self-confidence, teamwork, problem-solving skills as well as creative and scientific thinking.