thumbs up children

Dad talking to childWhat is resilience and why is it so important to develop this trait as a young child? Resilience is the capability to withstand adversity and to find ways to overcome setbacks with a positive attitude. Young children often have trouble with resilience, because even small disappointments and troubles can seem overwhelming to a toddler or preschooler. There are ways for young children to learn to handle the difficulties that life throws their way, and put a positive spin on tough circumstances.

First, identify a go-to person for your child in any given situation. Children lean on adults to help them problem solve and regulate their difficult emotions. At home, you’re likely doing a lot of this work as a parent, but at daycare make sure your child has a teacher, or several teachers, that she feels comfortable going to during times of stress or when she needs help comforting herself or navigating difficult situations. Sometimes reminding your little one that her childcare center is a safe place filled with adults who are there to help her when she gets stuck is a nice way to help her make that connection between the safety of home and the safety of daycare or school.

Paying attention is a skill that many adults need to work on, especially when it comes to listening to their kids! We may hear our children discussing something that is troubling to them, but sometimes it is difficult to slow down and really listen. Listening helps you to empathize with your child, and that empathy will come in handy when you need to get down to the nitty gritty of problem solving with her.

Teach your child to “see what comes next”. Children live in the present. If a toy is unavailable, it is difficult for them to understand that their sadness or frustration is a temporary condition, and that after some patience, they may be able to play with the toy again or to find a new toy to play with. Help them to see what comes next by asking, “What can you play with while that toy is unavailable?” Helping children to make plans when they are feeling frustrated is enormously helpful.

Give your child a chance to have a “do-over”. If she is having a hard time with a concept or an activity, or if she has made a mistake that has caused her to feel angry or frustrated, encourage her to try again. This is a great reminder that mistakes happen to everyone, mistakes can be corrected, and mistakes can help us to learn.

Of course, building resilience is often a matter of time. A six year-old will have a much greater capacity for resilience than a two year-old, so practice these skills with your young child, knowing that the longer they practice and the more mature they become, the more mastery they will have over these practices.