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13 Tips for Building Resilience in Kids

As parents we want to protect our kids from harm and pain. Yet we also need to prepare them for life! So what does it look like to nurture resilience in children? We’ve written a lot about stress and the brain. Too much stress is harmful while too little stress robs children of practice problem solving and navigating challenge. Building resilience means helping our kids develop the skills and habits they need to manage life’s ups and downs and recover from stress.

Child's bright boots in muddy puddle indicating resilience

Resilience building tips:

  • Relax. If you’re not having fun you may be pushing your kids too hard.
  • Make time for free play. Play is a great way for children to learn how to manage their behavior and resolve conflict.
  • Use authentic praise. Praise your child, but be sure to make the praise specific and meaningful. In other words, connect praise with wholehearted efforts and actions.
  • Support, don’t rescue. Provide care, nurturing, and support, but don’t always swoop in to bail your child out of a difficult situation.
  • Learn from challenge and disappointment. Help your child process the situation afterwards. “What did you learn? How did it make you feel to resolve that conflict? What might you do differently next time?”
  • Empathize. Validate your child’s frustration and acknowledge when something is difficult. “It makes sense that you are frustrated, geometry can be really challenging. I am really proud that you are sticking with it though. I can’t solve this for you but why don’t you explain to me what you’ve done so far.”
  • Be patient. You may be able to do a better or faster job of something, but your child loses the opportunity to learn when you take over.
  • Adjust your expectations. Have realistic but high expectations for your child’s behavior.
  • Coach your child’s emotions. Help your child manage their own behavior and emotional impulses by coaching them.
  • Chores matter. Expect children to do their chores and participate in the life and work of the family.
  • Back up teachers and schools. Fighting with teachers to boost your child’s grade isn’t doing anyone any favors. If you have a real concern about your child’s performance schedule an individual meeting and come up with a plan together.
  • Encourage your kids to volunteer, help out, and support the work of others.
  • Don’t ignore too much stress. Absolutely swoop in and protect your child if they are experiencing inappropriate levels of stress resulting from bullying, violence, harassment or other threats to their feeling of safety.