Building Resilience in Young Children

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges. Early childhood is an important time to nurture resilience.

What are some of the practical things I can do to help build resilience in my child?

Be there for your child. A relationship with an adult who is consistently present in a child’s life is critical to building resilience. It is important that a child knows who they can turn to when they need help.

Be a positive role model. Young children are always watching, and they copy what those around them do. When parents model positive ways to deal with difficult situations, they are teaching their children to do the same.

Help your child learn self-control so they can learn to handle all kinds of different or challenging situations without feeling too distressed. When children are tired or hungry, it is difficult for them to deal with new or challenging situations. Healthy food and sleep are the building blocks to so many parts of healthy child development. You can practice deep breathing with very young children. Pretend to blow bubbles together to practice how to breathe deeply and slowly. If you practice when a child is not upset, you can remind them to use this skill when they are upset to help calm down.

Help your children learn how to regulate their behavior by helping them identify their feelings and think through ways to cope with them. Ask your child what they are thinking in their head. Then name the emotions they describe using empathy and understanding. You can help your child by playing thinking games together. For example, ask your child: What would happen if Tommy took your toy?

When we have confidence we believe in our own ability to do something or solve something. There is a feeling of control. Building confidence in young children starts with responding to their needs as babies. Responding to a baby who cry’s teaches them that they have some control over what happens to them. They learn security and trust and these are the first steps towards building confidence in their abilities.

You can help build your child’s confidence by offering them simple choices. For example, ask them: “Would you like to wear your hat or your hood as it is cold outside?” then highlight their positive choices: “You made a great choice in wearing your hat, it helps to keep you warm.”

For lots of other practical tips on how to build resilience in children, check out the Building Resilience in Young Children: Booklet for parents of children from birth to six years from Best Start Ontario.

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