Create opportunities for personal challenge

Provide your child with opportunities to build their confidence and learn how to deal with obstacles, success and failure when they undertake personal challenges.

It is important to remember the following:

  • One idea that is very relevant to building children’s confidence by taking personal challenges is ‘healthy risks’. Healthy risks are age and developmentally appropriate risks such as walking to the shops with a sibling or alone. Healthy risks are not only about the risk of getting physically hurt, but also about the risk of losing, failing or making a mistake.
  • As a parent, you need to define what you consider to be a ‘healthy risk’ for your child – depending on their age, maturity and your own comfort level. It may be useful to ask yourself what risks you have let your child take in the past. What was the outcome? Would you encourage your child to take that risk again? It may be helpful to discuss ‘healthy risk-taking’ with other parents.

Some examples of how you might do this:

Teach your child to 'have a go'

Teach your child to adopt a healthy attitude of ‘having a go’ early in life. Kids learn through trial and error and they need to learn how to tolerate failure when it occurs. Not learning to tolerate failure can leave children vulnerable to anxiety, and it can make them give up trying – including trying new things. 

Allow your child to experience everyday adversity

Pre-school aged kids (1–5 year olds)

Give your child opportunities to experience ‘everyday’ adversity. This might involve going for a walk in the bush, even when there’s a chance of rain. Coping with the rain will help your child learn how to manage obstacles. 

Primary school aged kids (6–12 year olds)

Give your child opportunities to experience ‘everyday’ adversity. This might include being involved in sporting activities such as Little Athletics where there is the likelihood of losing. Learning how to deal with the disappointment of losing will help your child learn how to manage obstacles and other set-backs they experience in life.

Encourage your child to do free play

Pre-school aged kids (1–5 year olds)

Encourage your child to do free play activities (i.e. open ended and improvised activities). For example, give your child a box containing a range of different items, or a blank sheet of paper. Allow your child to determine what they will do with the items. Free play provides children with the opportunity to explore and helps build resilience. 

Primary school aged kids (6–12 year olds)

Encourage your child to do free play activities (i.e. open ended and improvised activities). For example, give your child a box of raw materials such as recycling items and allow your child to determine what they will do them. Free play provides children with the opportunity to explore and helps build resilience.

Encourage your child to build independence

Pre-school aged kids (1–5 year olds)

Encourage your child to build their independence by gradually increasing the difficulty of things they can do at home. For example, young children can help you to prepare the evening meal by setting the table or by assisting with food preparation such as washing the lettuce, or buttering the bread. Slowly increase the difficulty of the tasks as their skills develop.

Primary school aged kids (612 year olds)

Encourage your child to take ‘healthy risks’. For example, this might involve walking to or home from school, alone or with a sibling. You may start by driving or walking your child halfway to school and allowing them to walk the remainder of the distance alone, or with a sibling. 

Talk to your child about self talk

Primary school aged kids (612 year olds)

Talk with your child about self-talk and how you can shift the focus of self-talk in situations that aren’t going so well. Help your child practice reframing their self-talk. For example, a child might interpret being left out of a group as, ‘They don’t like me. I’m not worth liking. I’m not a nice person’. You can help them to shift their thinking by reminding them of times they’ve played happily with others, so they have good memories to call on.

Help your child deal with difficult situations

Primary school aged kids (612 year olds)

Help your child develop strategies to deal with difficult situations and encourage them to come up with their own solutions. 

Explore the benefits of community based organisations

Explore the benefits of community based organisations that provide opportunities for healthy risk-taking and developmental growth through activities such as orienteering, camping, leadership, physical activity, volunteering, and the arts (e.g. drama, theatre groups, dance classes).
kids playing in a river

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