As a parent or carer there will be many times during your child’s life when you will observe your child’s resilience being tested. Whether it is friendship difficulties, managing change, or dealing with loss. You may find yourself looking for ways that you can help your child to feel better. There are a number of ways to help your child become more resilient. This includes ways to better manage the ups and downs that life can bring.
One way to begin to make a difference to your child is to understand what resilience is and how you and your child can improve and maintain it.
HeadStart Kent recognise that there are 6 areas of a young person’s life that fit together to help them become more resilient. This makes them more able to bounce back when they have a tough time. We've listed these areas below along with tips to help get you started. By helping your child become more resilient, you will prepare them better for life.
You can also watch a short film on the importance of resilience for more guidance.
If your child is struggling you can visit the MindEd website for extra support. You can also check out our Service Directory to access local services.
Having a secure family and home is important for your child's resilience. A home should feel safe, with people that treat you warm and sensitively. All families have their difficulties. Relationships and finances, among other hardships, can make life in the family home tense at times. If a young person doesn’t feel secure and safe, it can make their ability to cope with daily life and challenges more difficult.
As a parent or carer try to be aware of when your own adversity may be having an impact on the home environment. Observe how your children are responding to it.
Feeling secure is not just about the family and home environment. It can also be about the community you live in and what else is happening in the world. Some children and young people can be impacted by the adversity and perceived threat that their community may bring. Things like crime and local media stories can negatively impact a young person’s feeling of security.
Maybe your children would benefit from you acknowledging that there has been arguments or tension in the house recently. You don’t always have to focus on the issue, particularly if it isn’t appropriate to do so. Perhaps you can provide some time out by suggesting a family game or movie night. If there has been a lot of focus on negative behaviour, consider talking about what you appreciate about each other. For younger children activities such as ‘Grateful Tennis’ can be positive.
Grateful Tennis exercise
The following can be done in the car, at the dinner table, or anywhere that (all or some of) your family is together:
- Ask the question….What am I grateful for today?
- Take it in turns to say something you are grateful for. It can be something that happened during the day. For example, a good lesson at school, or something that made you laugh. It could be something like ‘I am grateful I have a home, or friends, or even the dog!’
- Get everyone to try think of 3 to 4 things they are grateful for. If a family member is struggling to answer, don’t put them under pressure. You may want to have a private conversation with them after just to check they are okay. We all have bad days when it is hard to see the positives.
- Listen to everyone’s response. Don’t comment. It is an appreciative listening exercise.
The aim of the exercise is to focus everyone on the positives in their lives and to listen to each other. It can be useful if you have a child that is experiencing and verbalising lots of negative experiences or feelings.
Do not use it as an immediate response to a negative statement. Make it part of your school commute a couple of times a week, or at family meal times. Whatever works for your family and the age of your children.
Make it okay to talk about feelings, both good and bad. Acknowledge that family life can be testing. Explain that it is okay to talk about the stresses this can cause. Ensure that this is always done in a respectful and positive way.
You can find help and resources to improve your family and home situation on the MindEd website.
Doing well at school is related to better resilience. This is not restricted to academic achievement but can be about your child’s all-round experience of school or learning. Many children and young people reach a stage where learning is seen as ‘not cool’. Your child may enjoy excelling in areas of education but for others this can make them self-conscious and want to ‘hide’ their achievement from their peers. If a child or young person is finding learning and participating difficult this can impact negatively on their self-esteem and general confidence. This may result in them appearing more withdrawn, making negative statements about themselves or behaving negatively in response to their sense of feeling they’re underachieving. As a parent/carer your response to these situations and challenges can really influence your child’s resilience. Being able to listen and respond to help with your child's development is really important, This includes your child’s interests and creativity, their strengths and ways that connect directly with their aims after school.
Knowing how to help isn’t always easy. The first thing to do is listen and make space for your child to tell you about their experience of education. This will often be in subtle ways. How was your day? What does your child tell you first? “I made this really awesome presentation” – this tells you that they are proud of something and they felt they did a good job. Perhaps presenting is a strength or that subject is one they love or “Mr Smith put me in detention because X threw a pen at me and I threw it back” – What lesson is this? Have they spoken about Mr Smith before? Who is X? A friend, someone who is affecting your child negatively and is this a pattern of behaviour.
Life is busy but the first step to understanding your child’s experience or perception of education is to listen. Try and make this part of your day.
If you want to read more about related topics please explore the following links:
You can find help and support if you think your child is experiencing poor concentration on the MindEd website. This also addresses young people who do not engage with school and if this affects their education. You’ll also find advice on school refusal, help with transition and lots of other helpful advice on the MindEd website.
Having good friendships when growing up is associated with better resilience. Having good friends helps children and young people:
- in times of stress
- deal with stress
- grow and improve their ability to make good decisions
- contribute positively to society.
Friendships can be hard to establish for some children and young people. If a child isn’t confident they may find it difficult to talk to others. Finding children and young people with similar interests to them can make this a little easier. as they have shared interest and something to talk about more confidently.
Moving areas or changing schools can be a difficult time for a child. They may be leaving very close and important friendships behind and feel fearful that they may not be able to establish these kind of friendships in a different town or school. Most importantly try to be available to listen and empathise with your child. It isn’t always possible to fix every friendship difficulty your child experiences, but listening and understanding them is important. Think about how you, as a parent or carer, support your child’s friendships. Do you allow them to have friends over to your home? Do you help them to travel to visit friends or take them to groups or activities where their friendship groups are?
You may want to direct your child to the Friendship page in the Young People's section.
Talents and interests are the way that your child expresses who they are. They don't have to be the best at their chosen activity for it to be a big part of their life. If they have a talent or an interest – even if they don't see it themselves – you have a role to play in encouraging and supporting them.
- Find out what your child/young person is interested in, by asking them, or asking them what they're good at.
- Ask if their friends do anything they would like to try.
- Speak to their school to find out what activities are available now, or could be available in the future.
- Have a look at what's already going on for young people in your local area.
- Have you noticed that they're good at something, but they don't seem to realise? Talk to them about it.
- If there's something they'd like to try or do more of, can you help them out?
If you think your child is being affected by problems with their friendships, the YoungMind website offers advice for families.
You can also talk to your child about ‘what is a good friend?’ Participating in a conversation will tell you what they value in friendships. It will make them think about what it is to be a friend to someone. It can also help address issues such as bullying, social media behaviour and encourage kindness.
Could you drive them to a new club or volunteer to help run a school club?
When we talk about young peoples’ health we should consider physical health, mental health, and social wellbeing. It is also about the health of those around us, as their health can have an impact on us too. When thinking about health we may look at the impact our lifestyle, our surroundings, and our genetic makeup has on it. We have the ability to control some of these aspects but others are out of our control and specific medical advice or treatment is needed.
To ensure you’re in good health, it’s also important to know where to go for support to discuss health concerns. This is for both your own health and the health of others. For enquiries visit the NHS Choices website.
There are also lots of ideas on social media for ‘self care’ strategies. Healthcare services are there to allow us to strive for a state of complete emotional and physical wellbeing. We should never feel embarrassed about seeking out that support.
There are lots of things you can encourage your child to do to keep them physically and emotionally healthy. For more information you can visit the Good Mental Health Matters website.
Across a day, a week, or a month we often experience a vast range of different emotions. Our children are the same. It’s normal to experience a variety of feelings as we encounter different situations in life. Try not to think of certain emotions as being ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ as all emotions are valid. It’s important to learn to recognise and manage our emotions as they are often strongly linked with how we act. If you feel your child is struggling to make sense of their feelings, there are a few things you can try.
Talk to your child and encourage them to explore their response. The exercise below can be used during an intense emotional response:
- Notice the emotion – notice how you feel
- Name the emotion – what is it? What word best describes it?
- Accept the emotion – it’s a normal reaction, what prompted it? Don’t judge or condone, just let it be for now
- Investigate the emotion – how intense is it? How are you breathing? What are you feeling physically?
- Allow and release the emotion – notice and allow your thoughts, release struggles with the thought and take deep breaths
Emotions and behaviours are vastly impacted by what we see online and by those around us. This area of resilience considers how your child should be learning to take responsibility for their actions as well. Helping them to understand the relationship between what they think and feel and ultimately how they act. Many a parent will have uttered the words “Life isn’t fair” when a child has said “It’s not fair.”
What if we explored it a little deeper with them in that moment. What is it about the situation or scenario that felt ‘unfair’. Continuing this conversation will help you to understand your child’s values and perspective.
Once you have listened you will be in a better position to prepare them to respond in ways that will help them grow emotionally and not set them back. It’s normal to feel anxious or worry at certain times in life. But it’s important for children and young people to know how to manage these worries. This means expressing themselves without harming themselves, others, or property.
We want young people to feel positive about the future and optimistic that change to responses comes with age and maturity. If your child is struggling to do this you can encourage them to talk about it with yourselves or another trusted adult. You can also encourage them to explore the information and links on this site too.
Visit the Childline website for more advice.