Building Resilience In Children — From Surviving To Thriving  

As our tamariki go through (and grow through) life, there are going to be ups and downs. We can’t protect them from all the knocks, and we also shouldn’t do that. Coping is a really important part of being human, and resilient children will navigate the social and emotional landscape of life better. But, how we go about building resilience in children is just as important. We have to ignore the ‘hard way’ approach — that idea that we can leave our children to struggle and somehow they’ll cope their way out of it, and go instead with the heart way. This is when we realise that the key ingredient in building emotional resilience in children is a supportive and responsive relationship with us.  

Parents or caregivers who partner with their children to navigate the bumps in life’s road show them that they can do hard things. And that they can have a hard time, but it’s not final. They can (and will) bounce back! Children gain courage from that deep sense of connection.  

Supporting our tamariki doesn’t mean we take on all their hardship. Solving problems for them clears their immediate path, but it means they’ll stumble on the next bump they encounter. Support is about being present as they feel their feelings, look for their own solutions, try them out, and face what comes. Doing this with us builds their confidence and capability to eventually do it without us! 

The role we play in resilience-building isn’t just about what we do (with or for our tamariki), but it’s very much about how we are. If we are open to the expression of emotion— all emotions— then emotional literacy and resilience develop side by side. Children who can express dissatisfaction, disappointment, anger and unsettledness, give the feelings the motion they need to simply ‘visit’ and then move off again. (Repressing them does the opposite). We can model this too, by sharing our own experience of feelings sometimes being hard to sit with, but always being temporary.  

We can also have an encouraging view of mistake-making and risk- taking— showing our tamariki that we trust them to try different things, even if they (and we) are uncertain of the outcome. Resilience comes easier when flexibility and adaptability are fostered, rather than ‘black and white’ thinking— where there’s only one way to do things, or one acceptable outcome.  

Resilient children do well in relationships, play, and quite simply,life. They have the inner strength to deal with difficulties and unknowns. It doesn’t develop with hurling independence at them prematurely, but in equipping them with a true sense of empowerment and capability, which they continue to carry with them— a gift that doesn’t just help them ‘survive’ life’s hurdles, but to thrive, both despite the hurdles and because of them.  

Childcare that begins and ends with loving care