5 Ways to Promote Resilience in your Child

Emma Butler is the founder of Ready Set Learn. Her passion for early childhood education spans a 23-year career working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, the last 19 of which were as a kindergarten teacher and sessional pre-school Director. 

Emma's business Ready Set Learn offers programs for children including a Resilient Kids Program, Skilled Kids Program with school readiness and also offers incursions and tutoring. 

We are so delighted to have Emma as a guest speaker to talk to us about the best way to raise resilient children especially in the world's current situation 🌏🙏🏻💖 Emma has provided us with her top six tips for parents, ready below. You can also find out more about her amazing program at Ready Set Learn here

 Create strong emotional connections with your child 

Fostering a connected, loving relationship is a foundation of resilience. Empower your child by supporting them and spending quality time with them as they grow. Being resilient doesn’t mean your child needs to survive on their own or always bounce back unassisted. Just knowing you are a safety net that will always have their back will help them apply more effort, be open to new experiences and strive for greater things. 

 Try this: 

• Organise special experiences together– zoo day, movie night, visiting the library, beach day, etc. 

• Engage in their interests/hobbies with them – bike riding, collecting shells, etc. 

• Try out new experiences together – skateboarding, ropes courses, knitting, etc. 

• While you are together, encourage them to try new things. Use positive language and show enthusiasm. Don’t push too hard if they aren’t into it.  

Allow children to take healthy risks  

How will children know their own abilities and limitations without testing them out? Taking risks is a really important part of childhood as it allows children to push the boundaries, learn about safety and develop confidence. Our risk-averse lifestyles and fears have robbed our kids of the upbringing that previous generations have enjoyed and learnt from. Let your child step out of their comfort zone! 

Try this: 

• Climb trees, ride their bike to school, cut up vegetables with a real knife, take things apart, partake in volunteer work, try out a surfboard/boogie board, build a camp fire, etc. (Of course these things will need to be done with some level of supervision and some preparation so they are healthy risks, but be mindful not to take over and remove all risk in the process.) 

Let children make mistakes and experience failure  

It’s a parent’s instinct to protect their children from failure and making mistakes but it is extremely important for children to experience the emotions and thoughts around mistakes and failure. Approached in a positive way children can learn how to overcome these feelings and thoughts, how to avoid or overcome the obstacle and will learn a lot about themselves in the process. 

Try this: 

• Approach mistakes and failures with a growth mindset (the belief that abilities can be developed/learnt through dedication and hard work, regardless of talent or “cleverness.”) 

• Let children see you making mistakes and talk about your own failures to normalise them.  

• Brainstorm how things could be done differently next time if the situation calls for it.  

• Check in on your language in relation to mistakes. You may tell your child “mistakes are ok” but saying things like “You duffa,” “That was silly, you won’t do that again will you!?”  “How many times have I told you not to spill your drink!” are easily said in the heat of the moment, but this kind of language says that mistakes aren’t ok. 

• Participate in sports, dance, gymnastics, chess club, coding etc. where success may not always be certain. 

Teach children to understand and regulate their emotions 

It’s so important that children can identify what they are feeling so they can understand what’s happening to them when emotions take hold.  Help your child to learn strategies and techniques to regulate their feelings so they can help mange their physiological responses and return to a calm state where they are able to think, learn and play to the best of their ability.  

Try this: 

• Teach your child to identify emotional facial expressions 

• Talk to them about how feelings manifest in their bodies 

• Help your child to put their emotions into words so they can express how they are feeling. 

• Teach your child to breathe. Breathing exercises are amazing to calm down from many different emotions 

• Engage in physical release activities – jumping on the trampoline, pushing the wall, digging in the sand pit, etc. 

• Encourage the use of sensory tools that help to calm the nervous system – sensory bottles, fidget toys, soft fabrics, tools that apply pressure to the body, wiggle cushions, etc. 

Teach optimism and positive self-talk 

Unfortunately, humans are predisposed to think negatively because we are more inclined to engage deeply with emotions around negative thoughts. This increases the likelihood of engaging in negative self-talk (“I can’t do this,” “I’m not clever enough,” etc.) Thinking positively takes practice but teaching your child to look at the bright side of things can really help their resilience and the way they think about themselves.  

Try this: 

• Try to highlight the silver lining when things don’t go as planned. Once they’ve heard this done a few times ask them for a silver lining of a situation so they are actively engaged in the positive though process. 

• What children tell themselves when faced with adversity can have a huge impact on the outcome of the situation. Teach your child to be their own positive internal coach. Have them practice affirmations or phrases when things get tough. “I am calm,” “I can do this,” “I can try,” “I am brave,” etc. 

Encourage your child to play outdoors 

Playing in the great outdoors allows children to connect with nature. It has been found that playing in the sunlight boosts endorphins and serotonin levels. It also decreases the stress hormone, serotonin and promotes physical fitness, is an emotional outlet and promotes risk taking and making mistakes. All of these things help build resilience! Playing outdoors with peers is also a great opportunity to socialise and practice the many social skills children need to feel connected to others and make friends. 

Try this: 

• Hit the local park with friends 

• Go on a bush walk or explore the bush  

• Go on a treasure hunt at the beach to find shells, rocks, sea sponges, etc. 

• Explore your local botanic gardens 

• Go camping 

Ready Set Learn Blog on resilience for kids and kids programs for preschool and toddlers
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