How to Develop Resiliency in Kids
Updated: Mar 26
Author: Colleen Macmillan, BSW, RSW
Becoming a parent is one of the most challenging roles in life. It also brings us back to our own childhood reflecting on our own experiences. We tend to focus on the hurts that we felt along the way and now have a strong desire to protect and shield our own children from those sometimes negative and hurtful experiences.
Over protecting and shielding does not give your child the skills they need to problem solve, navigate the world around them or handle situations when the unexpected happens.
How can we develop resiliency in kids? Here are a few tips on developing resiliency in everyday situations.
1. Over protecting only fuels anxiety. Don’t accommodate every desire and every need, they need to understand that sometimes they just can’t have what they want.
2. Let them take risks! This is hard for some parents but in order problem solve and navigate life they have to have choices and experience age appropriate freedoms. Those monkey bars at the park that you won’t let your child climb are waiting. Going from the small slide to the big one is a risk but one worth letting your child take.
3. Problem solving can be scary, normalize your child’s nervousness. We all experience nervousness in new situations or going to new places. Acknowledge the nervousness. Instead of answering “oh you’re going to love it” ask “if you get there and you still don’t feel better, what do you think you should do”. This helps problem solve.
4. Don’t ask "why" questions? Ask “how” questions. Your child leaves their favorite blanket outside and now it’s wet. Instead of asking “why did you leave your blanket outside” ask “your blanket is all wet, how are we going to fix that”.
5. Don’t give them all the answers. Kids ask a million questions a day and as parents we often just answer without thinking about what they learn from these interactions. Take the Q & A a step further and answer by saying you don’t know and “how” might we find the answer together.
6. Let them fail. Failure is learning, not a reflection of you. When your child fails at something be there to support their feelings and help them problem solve and understand what they could have done or why it may not have worked out the way they wanted, then encourage them to try again.
7. Emotions. This one is key to developing resiliency in kids. This does not mean kids should not show big emotions it means they need to know what emotions are appropriate and inappropriate. Your job is to teach that. If your child throws a major tantrum you may say “I’m sorry but we are going home right now, that is inappropriate behavior”. Then carry through with taking them home. Kids learn very quickly what they can get from certain emotional outbursts.
8. Model Behavior. As a parent we will all have days when our fuse is short, we are tired and maybe aren’t the best example of good behavior. Own it! Let your kids know you messed up and how you’re going to fix it through an apology.
Resiliency doesn’t come wrapped up with a big bow, it’s learned through experiences. Help your kids take risks, learn to problem solve, live through failures and let them make decisions that you know might backfire. Just be there to support them when that happens.
Here is a list of some great children books about resiliency.
Otis by Loren Long
Pete the Cat Books by E. Litwin
Gossie: A Gosling on the Go by Oliver Dunrea
The Girl Who Lost her Smile by Karim Alrawi
Sad, the Dog by Sandy Fussel & Tull Suwannakit
Rosie Rever, Engineer by Andrea Beaty & David Roberts
A Perfectly Messed up Story by Patrick McConnell
Violet the Pilot by Steven Breen