How to build resilient kids

Resilience refers to a person’s ability to bounce back after a negative experience. Research shows that children with a high level of resilience have a much better chance of developing and sustaining good mental health when they enter adulthood.

There are 4 major areas that need to be addressed in order to build a more resilient child:

  1. Social skills – Children need to be able to communicate their feelings to their peers and to be able to show empathy, whilst possessing strong conflict resolution skills.
  2. Problem solving – Children who show creativity and flexibility in their thinking are usually more resilient. Being able to solve problems means children become more confident making plans and asking for help.
  3. Independence – A strong sense of self and an ability to think autonomously are both important factors. Children who learn to make decisions for themselves are more confident and less likely to fall victim to peer pressure.
  4. Optimism – An optimistic child is one who believes in their own potential, and sees the link between their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. They are not easily disheartened by challenging situations.

The table below outlines the goal for each skill area, and offers a practical way to promote each skill:

Skill area Goal How to promote this skill
Social skills Encourage your child to talk about their feelings, and to be responsive towards the feelings and needs of others. Read a book or watch TV with your child and try to identify characters that are facing a difficult situation. Start a conversation with your child about the way the characters might be feeling.
Social skills Provide comfort and understanding when your child is upset. Reassure your child by sharing your own experiences with them. What did you do to overcome a difficult situation? Let your child see you cope with a bad day – in essence you can model the positive behaviours that you would like them to adopt.
Problem solving Identify different ways to solve problems. Use mind maps to determine possible solutions. Ask reality based questions: e.g. “How do you think Uncle John might solve that problem?”
Independence Teach your child to make everyday decisions with confidence and how to set realistic goals. Promote independence by including children in family discussions and decision-making. Make a point of listening to their perspective.
Optimism Teach children how to be optimistic from an early age, especially when they find themselves in a challenging or undesirable situation. Read stories to pre-school children such as “The Little Engine That Could” (by Watty Piper) to illustrate the concept of perseverance in the face of hardship.


School-aged children will benefit from learning constructive ways of dealing with negative thoughts – talk about how to identify negative thoughts and then together, work out ways to turn those thoughts into more positive ones.


And most importantly;

Do not continually try to protect your child from negative experiences. Allowing them to make mistakes and experience disappointment is an important part of their development.