8 Ways to Develop Resilience In Kids

Resilience builds when children experience challenges and learn to cope with them positively. Learn easy ways in which parents can help their children be resilient.

By URLife Team
02 Jun 2024

For children, challenges and tough times include experiences like leaving home to go to school, doing their homework, welcoming a new sibling, moving to a new home or serious experiences such as being bullied, family breakdown, family illness or death. As kids go through these experiences, they learn to be resilient, provided there is someone to guide them and help them cope.

More often than not resilience is shaped by both nature and nurture. While for some kids, resilience is a characteristic that they are born with. However, for many kids resilience can be built by factors including their childhood environment, which includes family and community support. .

According to a 2018 study published by the Department of Psychiatry, New York, social support is vital for maintaining good physical and psychological health, and is associated with more positive emotions, self-esteem, motivation and optimism, as well as resilience. This is the reason that parents or caregivers should have an intimate relationship with their kids and navigate through this phase of developing and building resilience.


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Is there any age to build resilience? 

Resilience can be developed at any age, but kids often learn and absorb it naturally. Not only are young people more amenable to change because their brains and personalities are still developing; but, because they are often exposed to stressors. The brain and other biological systems are most adaptable early in life. Yet while their development lays the foundation for a wide range of resilient behaviours, it is never too late to build resilience. Age-appropriate activities can significantly improve the odds that an individual will recover from stress-inducing experiences.

A survey by the American Psychological Association found that 53 percent of teens said they feel good about themselves after exercising, 40 percent said it puts them in a good mood and 32 percent said they felt less stressed afterwards. So whenever you as parent observe your child strained because of stress, let him channelise his energy by exercising including playing outdoor games, exploring their favourite sports or spoiling their clothes with soil when toiling it.


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8 Ways to Develop Resilience In Kids

Reflect on Past Experiences

Encouraging children to learn from past successes in overcoming hardships can be a powerful tool to build their resilience. By discussing specific instances where they navigated difficulties, you help them recognize their own strength and resourcefulness. This reflection not only boosts their confidence but also reinforces the idea that they are capable of handling future challenges. Emphasise that each challenge they have faced has contributed to their growth and prepared them for what lies ahead. This approach helps children learn to trust their problem-solving abilities and make sound decisions, fostering a sense of self-reliance and competence.


Inculcate a Hopeful Outlook

Help your child maintain perspective and a hopeful outlook, even during painful times. Encourage them to see the situation in a broader context and understand that there is a future beyond the current challenge. While they may be too young to think long-term on their own, guide them to recognise that better days lie ahead. An optimistic outlook helps children see the good in life and persist through tough times.
Use history to demonstrate that life moves forward after bad events and that hardships are temporary. Show how the world has overcome difficulties and progressed, helping children understand that tough times don't last forever. This perspective fosters resilience and a positive mindset, enabling them to navigate challenges with hope and determination.


Related story: Make Exercising Fun For Your Kids


Identify and Validate their Emotions

To help your child with their emotions, encourage them to talk about how they feel and listen carefully to show genuine interest. Acknowledge all their feelings, including frustration, disappointment, and sadness, to help them identify and label their emotions. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to express their feelings and develop coping and problem-solving strategies. For instance, instead of asking, "Did you have a good day at school?" ask, "What was the best (or hardest) thing that happened at school today?"


Avoid Comparisons

To build resilience in children, it's crucial to steer clear of comparisons. Instead, emphasise personal progress and celebrate individual achievements. Encourage children to focus on their efforts rather than fixating on outcomes, teaching them that success is a journey marked by hard work and dedication. Highlight their unique strengths and qualities, fostering a sense of self-worth independent of comparison to others. Promote collaboration and teamwork over competition, showing children the value of learning from one another without feeling the need to measure up. Equip them with coping strategies to navigate setbacks, fostering resilience and the ability to bounce back without dwelling on comparison. Avoid making comparisons with siblings or unintentionally sending the message you think your children are incompetent by over-protecting them.


Practise Supportive Parenting

The most important thing for kids who become resilient is having at least one strong and caring relationship with a parent, caregiver, or another grown-up. These relationships give kids the attention, guidance, and safety they need to handle tough times. They also help kids learn important skills like making plans and controlling their actions, which helps them deal with challenges and do well. So, when kids have people who support them, teach them useful skills, and give them good experiences, it helps them become resilient.

According to a 2015 study by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, children who end up doing well have one thing in common – at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. These relationships provide a buffer against disruptive developmental forces and build vital skills – such as the ability to adapt to different circumstances – that form the foundations of resilience.


Related story: 5 Ways To Instill Body Awareness in Kids


Promote Healthy Risk-Taking

Have you heard of helicopter parenting? It is a term used to describe a style of parenting where parents are overly focused on their children, often to the point of over-involvement in their lives. This can include excessive attention to the child's experiences and problems, overprotection, and constant monitoring

In a world where playgrounds are made “safe” with bouncy floor materials and helicopter parenting, it’s important to encourage kids to take healthy risks. Something that pushes a child to go outside of their comfort zone, but results in very little harm or no harm if they are unsuccessful. Examples include trying a new sport, participating in the school play, or striking up a conversation with a shy peer. When kids avoid risk, they internalise the message that they aren’t strong enough to handle challenges. When kids embrace risks, they learn to push themselves.


Incorporate a 5-Minute Timer

Building resilience is like flexing a muscle; it strengthens with practice. When you find your little one in uncomfortable situations and choose to sit with them, even for just a few minutes, you're actively training that resilience muscle. So, if you've just spent five minutes confronting discomfort, give them a pat on the back and tell them you've taken a step towards growth. Acknowledge their discomfort and tell them that  facing it head-on is no small feat, and it's worth celebrating. Offer them a hug as a gesture of recognition for their efforts. This can be a powerful way to reinforce this positive behaviour.
Now, let's take it a step further. Ask them how about another five minutes? Tell them ‘’You've already shown that you're capable of sitting with discomfort for a brief period, so why not challenge yourself to extend it a bit longer?’’ With each additional minute, they are not just enduring discomfort; you're actively building resilience.


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Embrace Mistakes—Theirs and Yours

Kids who fear failure often lack resilience and tend to be highly anxious. When parents emphasise end results, children become fixated on a pass/fail mentality, leading them to avoid risks. Embracing mistakes, including your own, fosters a growth mindset and sends the message that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Sharing your own mistakes and how you recovered from them can be particularly beneficial and serve as an inspiration for them.


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Children encounter various challenges and tough times throughout their lives, ranging from everyday transitions to more serious situations. Building resilience is a crucial skill for them to navigate these experiences successfully. By fostering a warm and supportive relationship, parents and caregivers play a vital role in helping children develop the necessary skills to overcome obstacles and thrive in the face of adversity.




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