Focus on managing emotions

Being resilient is not always about feeling better or having fewer emotional reactions. It’s about managing and responding to emotions in a healthy and positive way. You and other adults in your child’s life play a role in helping children articulate, respond to and manage emotions.

It's important to remember the following:

  • Improving children’s resilience is not about helping them feel less. It’s about helping children to manage their feelings in a healthy way.
  • Children with a sensitive temperament can be just as resilient as any other child.
  • Children respond to ‘difficult events’ in different ways and may need different types of support. Siblings experiencing the same difficult event (e.g. a natural disaster) may respond differently. For example, one child might avoid talking about a one-off adverse event (e.g. a natural disaster) and act as if it hasn’t affected them at all. While another may become very anxious about specific situations such as going to school or separating from a parent or carer following the natural disaster.

Some examples of how you might do this:

Use open-ended questions with your child

Use open-ended questions when talking with your child. For example, you could ask, “What’s the best thing that happened today?”, “What was the toughest thing about today?”. Older children will give more detailed responses to open-ended questions, but it’s a good habit to get into with younger children. This helps kids learn to acknowledge and articulate their feelings, and opens opportunities to help children develop coping and problem-solving skills.

Encourage your child to talk about feelings

Encourage your child to talk about how they’re feeling. If your child finds it difficult to talk about their feelings, try to remember times when your child did talk about how they felt – what was it about that particular situation or environment that helped your child open up? Can you use that strategy again? It’s important to make sure that you listen attentively when your child talks about things that are concerning them. 

Acknowledge when your child is distressed

When your child is distressed, acknowledge their experiences and feelings in the moment. For example, “I can see you’re sad”, and “It’s OK to cry”. It’s important for children of all ages to learn how to identify their emotions and reactions to different situations.

Help your child regulate emotions

Pre-school aged kids (1–5 year olds)

Help your child put words to how they’re feeling. For example, for children who are developing language say, “You’re smiling – you must be happy!”

Help your child put words to how others are feeling as well – this will help them develop empathy, and help them understand those feelings in themselves. 

Primary school aged kids (612 year olds)

Help your child to recognise and regulate their emotions by developing healthy thinking habits*. Help your child respond to, and manage their emotions, such as through positive self-talk, self-compassion, a sense of optimism and a positive attitude. If your child’s self-talk is negative – for example, “I’m going to die of embarrassment speaking in front of my class”, help them reframe their self-talk to something like, “Public speaking isn’t my favourite thing, but I’ll be able to cope”.


* Healthy thinking means looking at life and the world in a balanced way (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2011). Healthy thinking teaches children to know how their thoughts (both helpful and unhelpful) affect problems or feelings in everyday life. With practice, children can learn to use accurate thoughts that encourage them instead of negative thoughts that discourage them.

Talk to your child about preparing for events

Pre-school aged kids (1-5 year olds)

Talk to your child about how they can prepare for events they feel nervous or anxious about. For example, if a child is worried about getting lost in a supermarket, talk to them about what they can do in that situation. Remind them about those strategies at a later point: “Remember those ideas you came up with for if you get lost? Shall we go through them again together?”

Primary school aged kids (612 year olds)

Talk to your child about how they can prepare for events they are nervous or anxious about. For example, if your child is worried about doing a presentation at school, encourage them to do a practise run with you or at home with their family.

It can be helpful to expose children to experiences of failure rather than protect them from it. When they do fail at something, help them put the failure into perspective.

Help your child to realise that difficult times are a part of life

Primary school aged kids (612 year olds)

Help your child to realise that difficult times are a part of life, that they’ll pass, and that things will get better. You might be able to help your child with this by talking about how you, people you know, or even famous people have gone through difficult times. Perhaps use role-plays and have discussions to practice how to handle difficult situations.

boy with car

Stay in touch with us

Sign up below for regular emails filled with information, advice and support for you or your loved ones.

Sign me up