When we talk about resilience, we’re describing a person’s ability to cope with ups and downs, and bounce back from the challenges that life can throw at us. And it’s never too young to start developing coping skills – even very young kids can learn skills to help them deal with difficult times and maintain a positive outlook on life.
So where does resilience come from?
Resilience is a combination of both pre-set characteristics we’re born with and the environment we grow up in, including our support networks. While we can’t change our genetics, there are lots of ways you can help children and young people become more resilient.
Skills and qualities that help kids deal with ups and downs
Resilience isn’t about being ‘tough’ or the ‘strong silent type’. Instead, it focuses on emotional strength and awareness, and a positive sense of self.
Resilience skills are built on:
- Trust that the world is safe and that there are caring people to help them.
- Belief in their ability to do things for themselves and achieve their goals.
- Feeling good about themselves and feeling valued for who they are by trusted adults in their lives.
- Optimism that things will turn out all right.
- Regulating or the ability to manage their feelings, thoughts and behaviours.
Feeling optimistic and hopeful are key to positive mental health and social and emotional wellbeing.
What does resilience look like?
Resilience is all about:
- a willingness to overcome difficulties rather than avoid problems
- problem-solving skills
- ability to set realistic but rewarding goals and actively work towards them
- good social skills and ability to seek assistance from others
- understanding and acceptance of strengths and weaknesses
- good relationships with others
- the ability to learn from experiences and grow
- self esteem
- optimistic thinking patterns
- ability to recognise and manage emotions and be empathetic towards others.
These characteristics mean that children and young people are better able to make sense of the world around them, connect with people, and even seek out support when they experience difficulties. Good problem solving skills and the ability to work towards realistic goals also gives children and young people a greater feeling of control over their lives and a sense of positive self-worth.
Developing resilience skills
The skills young children develop to deal with everyday challenges – not being able to do something the first time or not getting what they want, for example – act as a foundation for coping with life’s bigger challenges.
When bigger stresses come along – such as dealing with loss, rejection or disappointment – children and young people can draw on what they’ve learned before about helping themselves to cope and feel better. Even though at first they might feel quite distressed, their resilience skills can help them bounce back. They also feel more confident asking for help when they need it.
Creating a balance
While it’s natural for us to want to protect our children from negative experiences, it’s important not to shield them completely from life’s challenges. Working through difficulties and problems – with adult support as required – gives kids is a chance to learn about themselves, develop resilience, and grow as a person.