Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

Nine ways to boost children's resilience

Sometimes a child may struggle to bounce back from adversity. Lisa Salmon asks psychologist Justin Coulson for advice that can help to make them mentally tougher

Bouncing back: kids de-stress
Bouncing back: kids de-stress

Does your child give up too easily or fail to recover after even the smallest of setbacks? If so, they need to improve their resilience - and you can help.

Encouraging a child to toughen up mentally may sound like a daunting task, but psychologist Dr Justin Coulson has some advice.

He has written a new book, Nine Ways to a Resilient Child (HarperCollins, £12.99), in a bid to help children spring back from difficulties.

"Resilience means we bounce back from challenges and adversity, and that our developmental progress isn't thwarted by difficult, or even traumatic, circumstances," Dr Coulson says.

"The idea of resilience resonates with parents who are worried their children are somehow not coping, or may not be able to cope in future.

"Parents want to know how to help their children be more resilient."

Here, Coulson outlines nine ways to help a child become more resilient...

Sign In

1. Build identity

Children need to have a strong sense of identity to know who they are and how they fit into the world. Coulson says studies show there are practical strategies for helping children work this out, such as sharing family stories about when mum did something courageous, or maybe when dad made a difference in the community.

2. Teach flexibility

Children need to learn how to be psychologically flexible because this builds resilience. Being psychologically flexible means children aren't rigid in their thinking, so if something unpleasant happens, they know how to roll with it.

3. Encourage self-control

Self-control sets children up to be more resilient, stresses Coulson. Youngsters who can delay gratification tend to be psychologically stronger and can manage themselves better when things don't work out.

4. Avoid 'stinking thinking'

Studies show that the way children think about life and struggles can dramatically affect their responses to challenges. This 'stinking thinking' leads to kids crumbling in the face of adversity.

Coulson says: "If we can help children reframe their thoughts, they can see adversity as something that makes them stronger, rather than something that weakens them."

5. Develop a growth mindset

Coulson says the concept of a 'growth mindset' can best be described in the words of Henry Ford, who said: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

6. Talk about their strengths

Research shows that resilience is improved by focusing on children's strengths, rather than always pointing out their weaknesses.

"When we focus on strengths, we emphasise what's right with them instead of what's wrong," explains Coulson.

"We accelerate their resilience when we find ways to encourage them to use their strengths every day, especially for helping others."

7. More green time, less screen time

Coulson says it will be years before the full effects of the 'screen tsunami' that has swept society are known.

However, he insists there's enough evidence to be clear about two things: too much screen time, or the wrong kind of content, is having some impact on resilience, and time spent in nature is a proven resilience and wellbeing booster.

8. Encourage autonomy

Children feel strong and capable when they make their own choices and are responsible for their lives, but Coulson points out that we can't have responsible kids if we don't give them responsibility.

9. Make relationships right

Coulson says the most vital ingredient in fostering resilience is relationships. This means having a strong support network to pick children up when they're down, to offer encouragement and to love them no matter what.

Belfast Telegraph

From Belfast Telegraph