How to Build Resilience in your Child

12 September 2017

Parents have all sorts of anxieties about the future for their children. These feelings are very normal and while there is no crystal ball to show what the future holds, parents can help their child be ready for the future by being resilient and able to deal with the changes that will inevitably occur.

So, how do you help your child build resilience? Here are some basics to get your started.

Let them Lose

Boy in green t-shirt with hands over his face playing connect 4It’s easier to let your child win, no doubt about it. You probably feel like “it’s just a silly game” and “it’s not worth a tantrum if I win.” The danger of this is that if that winning becomes the norm, losing becomes a bigger and more upsetting event. This ‘silly game’ is really just the beginning of shaping a child’s idea of competition. Having bad reactions to losing in the future can cause social problems in that other children are afraid of, or don’t enjoy playing with the sore loser.

The reality is we all lose sometime in life, whether it is a netball game, getting a bad grade in school, not getting the job we wanted or even more serious events later in life. As soon as your child is old enough to understand and play by the rules of a game, they are also old enough to begin experiencing a win and a loss.

Unfortunately for you, it may mean toughing out a few tantrums but remember it often gets worse before it gets better and it won’t get better unless you start!

Play by the Rules

This means parents too! If you are taking turns at a game or activity, don’t let your child take your turn or an extra turn. This applies only to turn-taking age of course (3 and up). If need be take shorter turns instead or have less people playing in a game. Once your child becomes accustomed to waiting, gradually take longer turns or increase the number of players. If your child doesn’t want to play the game any more, you can give them a choice of either continuing the game with everyone else, or sitting aside and waiting for everyone else to finish. This reinforces the idea that your child does not control the game and is not the centre of the game, and things will continue regardless of their choice. Likewise, while playing a game with dice, don’t let your child roll again if they don’t like the number they’ve rolled. Playing by the rules is again laying the foundation for following rules later in life, at school, at work and in society in general.

Attend Play Groups

Mum holding up toddler and watching bubbles Allow your child to explore different social environments. Attending play groups provides opportunities not only for learning and language building but also for building early social skills and facilitating the ability to make friends and approach others more comfortably. In this environment there are opportunities for turn taking, negotiating with others, cooperating in play and also observing interactions of others who may serve as models for how to play.

Encourage Self Advocacy

If you have a child who has a hearing loss it is important that they grow up being open about their device, how it works, what it’s for and why others need to know about it. This calls from strong self-advocacy.

Children who have a hearing loss need to be able to use the accurate terminology (coils, processors, hearing aids, BAHAs) instead of “ears” so that they can educate others on their communication needs. They should know how to put their device on, how to change batteries and how to use their FM system well enough to instruct others by the time they are ready to start school. They should also know that it’s okay to request repetition (e.g. can you say that again?), clarification (“I don’t know what you mean” or “I don’t understand”) or to ask for assistance (“can you help me with this?”). These are all things that can be practised at home, within play groups or at child care.

However, self-advocacy isn’t just for children with a hearing loss. Every child should be encouraged to ask for assistance and speak up for themselves confidently in the appropriate situation.

Don’t Always Save the Day

Like any skill, problem-solving grows with practice. If your child is having difficulty with something, don’t immediately give them an answer. Saving the day can create helplessness and dependence on others and you won’t always be there when your child is facing a challenge. Offer to think of a solution together or, if you feel your child knows the answer but is just lacking confidence, try giving an absurd solution to prompt a response from them. Give lots of processing time and encouragement to help them arrive at their own conclusions.

Have a Positive Attitude

Remember that we often take after our parents whether we like it or not! We can’t expect our children to be resilient if we, as their guiding hand, have difficulty coping ourselves. Start small by beginning and ending your day with a positive thought – something that you are grateful for – and encourage your child to do the same. Your child is watching you and learning from your constantly. Nobody is perfect and we are all bound to say or do things in front of our children that are not ideal. However, this is the best time to start making positive changes in our own attitudes to not only help us cope better, but to teach our children how to do the same.

Last of all make the effort to schedule some time out for yourself and what you want to do (even if it’s just an hour) and stick to it. Not only because it’s a healthy practice for your own children to learn, but because you deserve it!

Cora Barclay Centre clients who would like to see support in building resilience in their child are encouraged to speak with our Family & Child Counsellor


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