Bouncing back: How to boost your kids' resilience

Kinderling News & Features

Little people’s lives are full of knocks and bumps – and we’re not just talking physical ones. Sometimes a schoolyard scrap or a falling-out with a friend can leave kids feeling just as bruised as a playground fall.

As a parent, our primal urge is to don our Superhero capes and rush in and fix all potentially hurtful situations. But Dr Hayley Watson and Jaimie Bloch from MindMovers Psychology say if we want to teach our children how to recover from setbacks, we should help them learn to “ride the waves” of ups and downs on their own.

Listen to Dr Hayley and Jaimie's interview with Kinderling Conversation:

Here are some resilience-building tips to try with your kids:

1. Learn to step back occasionally

“We often see two types of parents. There's parents that run to their children every time something bad goes on and they’re trying to handle it. They say ‘I’ll fix it!’, ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to get rid of your distress!’

"Then there's parents that think their children are mini-adults. They say ‘You should know what to do!’, ‘You know not to take that personally!’ So really it’s about meeting in the middle and not rushing to [your child’s] every need, because they have to learn to cope.”

2. Resist your urge to fix their problems

“Wanting to step in and fix the external environment is common for many parents. It’s actually really helpful to think of bad experiences as an opportunity for your child to learn how to cope with disappointment, because in life things will happen that are hard. You're there right now, but you won’t always be there for every hard thing in your child’s life.”

3. ‘Scaffold’ new behaviour

“Children often become really repetitive in behaviours. They learn something that helps deal with their distress, and they keep repeating it, which can be unhelpful.

"Sometimes parents have to come in and help ‘scaffold’ a new way of looking at things, a new perspective. So [ask your child] ‘What are you feeling?’ or ‘What do you think happened in that moment?’ Then ask them ‘What other perspective could you maybe have?’ It’s about repeating that ‘scaffolding’ and them learning to take that on.”

4. Validate your child’s emotions

“Be there for them and say ‘That looked so hard!’ or ‘If that happened to me, I would be feeling really yucky!’ Help them accept and understand their emotion and then you help them problem-solve. Ask them 'Well, what do you think we can do?’, ‘Is there anything we can do that will help?’ or ‘What do you think we could do next time?’”

5. Learn the art of 'perspective-taking'

“'Perspective-taking helps your child understand why people act a certain way. You ask them a question such as ‘I wonder why they would have done that?’ Their first thought might be something like ‘Oh! They don’t like me!’ or ‘It wasn’t good enough’.

Coach them through that, by saying things like ‘I wonder if they had a really bad day or if someone was mean to them.'”

6. Brainstorm alternatives with your child

“Suggest trying a different behaviour and get your child to brainstorm different options. [If having a hard time at school etc.], one option could be ask the other person involved to stop. One option could be tell the teacher. One option could be walk away. Get them to come up with these options and then try them.”

7. Teach them how to ‘ride the waves’

“Sometimes it’s just about accepting something happened, telling them 'It wasn’t so good, but what else can you focus on? What were the good things that happened in your day?' It’s 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

“Ask them questions like ‘Where did you feel that in your body?’, ‘Did you feel it in your tummy or your head?’ We do a lot of work with kids where you give a name or character to a feeling. You make that feeling come alive and you help them then sit with that. That’s resiliency, sitting with strong emotions and that’s the way to help your children cope with disappointment.”


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