Teach Your Child Resilience: How To ‘Bounce Back’

To children, all experiences are new. Therefore, they may overreact to positive feelings and they may not know how to react to negative feelings such as anger, frustration, guilt, or disappointment. While you can support your child to succeed in life, it is equally important to teach them how to cope with the things they cannot control. Here are eight ways you can teach your child resilience and build on their strong character.

To a small child, everything seems full of knocks and bumps, and it’s not just the physical ones we are talking about. Sometimes, children can be very affected by a fall-out they had with a friend, or a schoolyard scrap. The first reaction we tend to have as parents is rush to our child and get them out of the hurtful situation.

But is that the right choice?

Dr Hayley Watson and Kaimie Bloch from MindMovers Psychology agree that it is easier to teach our children how to bounce back from hurtful situation if we let them “ride the waves” on their own.

1. Step back from time to time

Let your child discover the world on their own, and try to be a guide for them. Rather than telling them what to do all the time, allow them enough time for them to try and fix a problem. See how they think, what actions they plan to take to address that problem, and guide them towards the right decisions. Don’t rush to your child’s every need, because they have to learn to cope.

2. Resist the urge to fix their problems

You are always there for your child now, but you have to prepare them for a time in their life when you will not be around to help. Therefore, allow your child to cope with problems on their own, don’t try to fix them yourself. Think of bad experiences as opportunities for your child to learn how to cope with disappointment, anger, frustration.

3. Give your child a new way of looking at things

Children tend to repeat their behaviour if, in the past, they learned that a certain behaviour fixed a certain problem. Sometimes this can become a problem, so it is something parents and carers should address as soon as they see it happening. Ask your child, “What do you think happened in that moment?” Then encourage them to look at the situation from a different perspective. This strategy can be very helpful for your child to understand how things might actually be seen in a more positive light.

4. Validate your child’s emotions

Your child might not know how to choose the right words to express what they are feeling. You can help them find the right words by helping them to understand what it is they are going through. Resonate with their feelings by saying things such as, “If that happened to me, I would be feeling really yucky!” so they can relate. Then work together to find a resolution: “What do you think we can do?” or “Is there anything we can do that will help?” or, “If this happens again, what do you think we can do next time?”

5. Help your child understand why

There is a certain way that people react to different events, which a child might not understand. To help your child understand, you could say: “I wonder why that person reacted that way.” Depending on the child’s response, you can coach them through an answer: “I wonder if they had a really bad day or if someone was mean to them.”

6. Build different problem-solving scenarios

Depending on the problem, work with your child to find several potential solutions. For example, if someone is being mean to them at school, you could work with your child to come up with different ways of how to solve this: tell the other child to stop, talk to the teacher, walk away etc.

7. Show them how to “ride the waves”

Sometimes, you will not be able to ignore the negative things that happen to your child. We all have a bad day from time to time, so how can you teach your child to cope with that? Try to look for other things that went well, identify the cause of the problem and see how they could avoid it happening again etc. This is a valuable lesson about being able to ride the waves of ups and downs without being pulled by them and being able to stay in the middle.

8. Discuss how emotions feel inside

Very often emotions are palpable, especially anger, fear or disappointment. Work with your child and teach them to give a name to a feeling. Ask them, “Where do feel it? Do you feel it in your head or in your tummy?” By naming the feeling, you are making it come alive in the child’s mind, so they can cope with it and understand its existence and how to put it down.

Listen to Dr Hayley and Jaimie’s interview with Kinderling Conversation

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Playgroup NSW leads play-based programs and services for NSW families with children birth to school age, offering development, shared experiences, and family support, that results in active citizens and inclusive communities.