Kids Resilience; Why is it important, how do kids learn to be resilient, and how can we build resilience in kids?

We hear all the time that it’s important to build kids resilience, so what does this mean and how can we help our kids to grow into confident, resilient adults?

Introduction to Kids Resilience

Resilience is a term that most people have heard before. Over the last 40 years, research into mental health has found that a strong sense of resilience is an extremely good quality to have and that the presence or lack or resilience can have a direct impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. Since resilience begins to develop from birth and can grow over time, it is important for parents to have good understandings surrounding how to foster this valuable character trait in their children. Continue reading to learn about why resilience is so important and how you can support your child to grow a positive sense of self through helping them display resilience in their daily lives.

Kids resilience
The presence, or lack of resilience can have a direct impact on someone’s overall health and wellbeing


What is child resilience?

In very simple terms, resilience refers to the ability to cope when things don’t go as planned. Being able to deal with the ups and downs that come with life and being able to accept and deal with disappointments, hurts and surprises requires a good sense of resilience.

For children, developing resilience is important for helping them deal with life, but also for helping them develop the skills and habits they will need to manage difficulties and challenges as they grow up. A strong sense of resilience will support children to be persistent and not give up in the face of failure. Resilience will help a child to recover after difficult times, deal with challenges and just generally be able to cope with all that life brings.


How do kids learn resilience?

Fortunately, we know that a child’s resilience is not fixed at birth. That means that whilst some children might seem to be more naturally resilient, there are certainly things that can be done to promote, support and build a sense of resilience.

Personality does play a role in determining how resilient a child might be. Our genes, temperament and personality will have a significant impact on our resilience but the environment around us can impact just as strongly. The family we grow up in, the community and also personal experiences can all impact on a person’s level of resilience and whilst there are always going to be things in life that we can’t change, we can certainly learn and adapt in positive ways that do support the building of resilience.

Kids resilience
A growth mindset can be key in developing healthy resilience

The children’s Resilience Research Project has found that there are five main areas to consider when working to build resilience in children. Parents, carers and teachers can help a child to develop the skills, habits and attitudes that are essential for building resilience by helping a child to:

–       Develop strong relationships with others

–       Grow their sense of independence

–       Learn how to identify their emotions and express them appropriately

–       Build their confidence

By working on these four things, children will be given the best chance at growing their resilience.  For more information on building resilience in children, check out the following website: How to Build Resilience in Children: Strategies to Strengthen Your Kids (psycom.net)

Why is it important to teach kids resilience?

Without resilience, a child is more likely to find life a whole lot harder to deal with. A child who lacks resilience will be less able to take risks and be persistent with their learning. They are also more likely to struggle socially and have difficulty managing their emotional needs. Resilience is also extremely important for mental health and both adults and children who have higher levels of resilience are much better at managing stress and less likely to suffer from conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Kids resilience
A lack of resilience can lead to issues with self esteem, anxiety and ongoing mental health issues


What are the qualities of a resilient child?

There are many traits that indicate that a child has a strong sense of resilience. Some key indicators include:

–     A child who can be persistent in problem solving

–     A child who has a growth mindset

–     A child who shows empathy towards others

–     A child who can set and strive for realistic goals

–     A child who feels competent and capable

–     A child who can act independently

–     A child who can ask for help when needed

–     A child who has initiative and can think creatively

–     A child who is trustworthy and able to be responsible

–     A child who has a positive outlook on life

A child who has these kinds of qualities is likely to be a driven individual who works hard to achieve their goals – and is therefore successful in their life’s pursuits.

Kids resilience
Some children seem to have a more ‘resilient’ personality but resilience is something that can be taught, with patience, and through role modelling

What causes lack of resilience in children?

There are a wide range of factors that can affect how a child develops resilience. Some people may have a genetic predisposition or a personality type that means that they have to work harder to develop resilience than others. There are also a great number of environmental factors that can impact on resilience – and parenting is certainly a prominent one. Parents who provide a loving, emotionally responsive and stable home environment are more likely to raise resilient kids.

Providing opportunities to grow resilience is also important throughout childhood. When a parent does not allow their child to take risks or solve problems for themselves, they are teaching them to be dependent rather than independent and this impacts on the child’s ability to see themselves as capable and competent individuals with much to offer the world.

What are the effects of a lack of resilience?

A lack of resilience means that a person may not be able to handle stress or deal very well with difficult or challenging situations. A person who lacks resilience might get hung up or dwell on their problems and then feel overwhelmed and resort to unhealthy coping strategies such as stress-eating or drug and alcohol abuse. There is also a strong correlation between stress and a range of health conditions, including high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, insomnia, heart disease and even a weakened immune system. In short, a lack of resilience will impact significantly on a person’s overall health and wellness. Whilst resilience won’t magically make those problems disappear – it does give people the ability to address the problems and handle stress in a healthy way that doesn’t have a lasting negative impact on their health and wellbeing.


How to raise resilient kids

There are many ways that parents and teachers can support children to grow their sense of resilience. Encouraging children to have a ‘growth mindset’ will help them to place value on their effort rather than on the outcome. By utilising a growth mindset, children can see opportunities for learning rather than focusing on failures. When we are able to see that we are not defined by our failures, we are able to be more resilient in the face of disappointments and setbacks.

Raising children to practice gratitude will also help them to build their sense of resilience. Being able to recognise and appreciate the good things that happen in life will automatically mean that there is less focus placed on the bad things.

Beyond Blue has developed a resource titled ‘Building resilience in children aged 0-12: A practice guide. This resource is great for deepening understandings surrounding how to support children to be resilient from birth. You can find this useful document available here: Building resilience in children aged 0-12 – A practice guide (beyondblue.org.au)


How do I explain resilience to a child?

Explaining concepts such as resilience to a child might feel daunting but there are some great child-friendly strategies that can be used to make the task much easier. There are a wide range of stories available for children that have topics related to resilience. A great example of this is the story ‘The Little Engine That Could’. If you are looking for some great books to read you your child about resilience, here is a helpful list: Resilience topic books for PSHE – The School Reading List

It is also beneficial to look for opportunities to apply the concept of resilience to real life situations that your child is engaged in. If you see them struggling with something you could say ‘I can see that is really hard for you. What a great job you are doing to keep trying even though it is hard. You are showing resilience’.

For older children and teens, the Kids Helpline website has some great information about resilience that you can explore together with them, and you can find this information here: What is Resilience? | How to Build Resilience | Kids Helpline

Summary of Kids Resilience

Whether you are a naturally resilient person, or someone who finds it difficult to bounce back after disappointments in life – developing a good understanding around resilience is a great starting point for supporting your children to grow a strong sense of resilience themselves, especially as a School Readiness preparation. Life can be extremely stressful at times and developing the knowledge and skills to help deal with this stress will have a profound impact on how we face and overcome challenges. Helping your child to grow a strong sense of resilience is a valuable gift for life.

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