Resilience: Helping Our Children Bounce Back

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How to Build Resilience in Our Children

We are honoured to have Berkshire based Psychotherapist, Hester Bancroft, offer up her expertise on building resilient children who are good ‘problem solvers.’

Seeing our children struggling when things don’t go to plan can, for many of us, be the hardest part of parenting. The temptation, in those situations, is for us to lift the responsibility off our children’s shoulders and take control for them. However, in order to build resilience in our children, we need to ensure that, rather than rescuing them (by doing things for them that they could, and should, do for themselves), we focus on supporting them (by doing only those things that they cannot do for themselves).


When we encourage our children to take responsibility for how they are being in their relationships and how they are approaching school work or sporting challenges, we boost their self-awareness and provide them with countless opportunities for growth, particularly when facing life’s inevitable challenges.

There are three key things we can do which actively build our children’s resilience:


1 Have clear boundaries and buckets of warmth


The more consistent we are as parents regarding the expectations we have of our children’s behaviour (including consistency in setting boundaries and having clear consequences) the more secure our children feel. Children thrive when they know what is expected of them and what they can be expect from us in return.


Pairing this with love and acceptance puts our children in the best place to feel good about themselves. It is also important, for all of us, to hold an understanding that perfection does not exist; all of us are perfectly imperfect human beings just doing the best we can. We may find some things easy, we will certainly find some things hard and we will all mess up from time to time, but that makes us no less loveable or worthy.


2 Give our children ownership of their challenges


When something important doesn’t work out for our child (or ourselves) it can feel catastrophic. Initially, it dominates our thinking, becoming the first thing we think about when we wake in the morning and the last thing we think about at night. It is crucial for our children to know that, however bad it feels initially, the strength of feelings will ease over time.


When things don’t go to plan, encourage your children to take the 4-step approach:


1      Be gentle and kind to yourself until the initial feelings lessen

What would make you feel better right now?

2      When you are calmer, take whatever responsibility you need to (however small or large)

What was your part in what happened? 

3      Take the learning (because there truly is feedback every ‘failure’)

What would you do differently next time?

4      Re-evaluate your goal and decide on Plan B

What can you do now to move towards your goal?


3  Take a ‘problem-solving’ approach to anxiety


Every single one of us will suffer from anxiety at different times; being anxious is a normal part of being human. Do not allow anyone to label your child as an anxious person. Importantly, if we believe something is part of our personality, we feel utterly powerless to change it.


When our child is anxious, the temptation is to reassure them that everything is going to be fine and the thing they are worried about will never happen. The reality is there are no guarantees with anything in life (and your children know that!). Instead, dive in, be curious and problem solve with them:


Play the percentage game: What are the chances are of that thing actually happening? (anxiety makes us hugely exaggerate the chances of bad things happening).


Play the ‘what if’ game: What if that thing you are worrying about actually happened? (short of death, we always have options and we are all much better than we realise at coming up with solutions to any given scenario, should we need to).


Visualise the perfect outcome:  What would this situation or event look like if it worked out perfectly? (visualising things working out just as we want them to changes our expectations, our behaviour and, consequently, our outcomes).


Most of all, let your child ‘own’ their challenges and anxieties; you are there to whole-heartedly support them, but they need to be a massive part of the solution so that, ultimately, they can recover from the challenges they will inevitably face in life and achieve all that they wish to.


Hester Bancroft
BSc (Hons) Psych, MBPsS, NLP Master Prac
Psychotherapist at Effective Steps -