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5 Ways to Build Resilience in Your Preschooler

Resilience is one of the most under-appreciated yet most important qualities a child can develop. Like empathy and social skills, resilience is a trait that will benefit your child during their educational career and throughout their adult life.

But how does one go about raising a resilient child?

The secret lies in teaching children how to cope with and learn from adversity. Here are 5 tips that can help.

1. Resilience is Rooted in Relationships

Healthy relationships with the people around them are the foundation for building resilience. This means creating strong bonds, not just with parents and siblings, but also with extended family and caregivers.

Whoever coined the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” was spot on when it comes to resilience. By surrounding your child with a supportive village of family and friends, you instill in them an acceptance of their own value and worth. This, in turn, helps your child feel secure and confident, preparing a fertile soil from which resilience may grow.

2. Resist the Urge to Problem Solve

Yes, preschoolers will undoubtedly require help from parents and caregivers…but don’t be too quick to step in and save the day.

Although it can be hard to watch a child struggle, allowing them to work the problem through to a healthy conclusion is vital to building resilience. You may need to ask leading questions in order to help them arrive at a solution. For example, dealing with a classmate who doesn’t want to be friends can be difficult. You can help your child work through the problem by asking them leading questions like…

What makes you think Calvin doesn’t like you? You may get answers like Calvin calls the child names or refuses to let the child join in imaginative play.

What can you do the next time Calvin is being mean/grouchy? The child could give Calvin space or find someone else to play with.

In this situation, it’s important to lead your child to the realisation that not everyone is going to like them…and that’s okay.

3. Encourage Them to Help Others

Encouraging your child to help others builds confidence in their own ability to make a difference in their community. Find an age-appropriate way for your child to volunteer—collecting canned goods from your pantry to donate to the local food bank, delivering flowers to a nursing home, or donating toys they no longer play with to a local shelter are all age-appropriate options.

4. Instill in Them a Growth Mindset

Developing a growth mindset requires a seismic shift in the way we define success and failure. When something in a child’s life goes wrong—perhaps they perform poorly on a test, lose a race, or have trouble completing an assignment—encourage them to see this as a growth opportunity rather than a failure.

For example, if your child scores poorly on a test, encourage them to get curious and ask questions…

Why did this happen?

What can I do differently?

What can I learn from this experience so my next attempt will bring me closer to success?

In doing so, we remove the finality from failures and reframe them as stepping stones that bring a child one step closer to success.

5. Help Them Manage Emotions

Preschool is a time when children must manage a lot of big feelings, and some of them may be unfamiliar to your child.

Ask your child to think of different emotions—happiness, anger, fear, surprise, confusion, sadness, etc.—and act them out together. Then read a book about big feelings (we love The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions by Anna Llenas). Afterward, remind your child that big feelings are okay to have and that they don’t last forever.

Finally, teach them techniques to work through big feelings like “Birthday Cake in Candles”. When your child is experiencing a big feeling, ask them to close their eyes and imagine there is a cake topped with candles in front of them. Ask them to take a big breath in through their nose and smell the delicious cake, then release the breath through their mouths as if they are blowing out all the candles on the cake. Your child can repeat this technique as needed to reduce stress until big feelings become more manageable.

And so…

Instilling resilience in your child is a gift that will benefit your child throughout their lives. Here’s to raising resilient children who will one become resilient adults!