How to build your child's Resilience
Updated: Aug 27
By Anita Ness, Founder of EMBRACE Calmer Kids
This blog post was inspired by a lovely proactive mum that emailed me a couple of weeks ago. She was asking if I had come across any good resilience groups or courses for kids. Her child is starting to over think situations, and is getting increasingly worried about things like friendships and school camp.
This blog post includes:
Tips that worked for our family
How anxiety can show up in children and when to seek help
The Step-laddering Technique and a FREE printable to use with your child
20 Practical and Powerful Strategies to help build Resilience in children
Resilience Courses that you might find useful
To be honest, it's super important that your child knows that worrying about things like school camp and friendships are perfectly normal, and all their peers (to a larger or smaller degree) will be having similar thoughts.
All the unknowns around school camp can be very unsettling. One idea is to find out as much detail as possible about what they will be doing (activities etc) and what the sleeping arrangements will be (especially who will be in who's cabin). Also, if their worry is extreme, consider taking your child to the actual camp location, so they can see what it looks like and know what to expect before they go. Learning some more detail may help reduce their anxious thinking.
Below I have summarised some useful information from the Raising Children Website on how anxiety is a natural part of growing up, and how to realise when it’s becoming an issue.
“It’s normal for children to show signs of anxiety, worries and fears sometimes. In most cases, anxiety in children and fears in childhood come and go.
In fact, different anxieties often develop at different stages. For example:
Babies and toddlers often fear loud noises, heights, strangers and separation
Pre-schoolers might start to show fear of being on their own and of the dark
School-age children might be afraid of supernatural things (like ghosts), social situations, failure, criticism or tests, and physical harm or threat
Children also worry about different things as they get older. In early childhood, they might worry about getting sick or hurt. In older childhood and adolescence, the focus becomes more about friendships, fitting in and family relationships and so on."
When to be concerned about anxiety in children.
"Most children have fears or worries of some kind. But if you’re concerned about your child’s fears, worries or anxiety, it’s a good idea to seek professional help. You might consider seeing your GP or another health professional if:
Your child’s anxiety is stopping them from doing things they want to do or interfering with their friendships, schoolwork or family life
Your child’s behaviour is very different from children of the same age – for example, it’s common for most children to have separation fears when going to preschool for the first time, but far less common over the age of eight years
Your child’s reactions seem unusually severe – for example, your child might show extreme distress or anger that is out of character for them
Severe anxiety can impact on children’s health and happiness. Some anxious children will grow out of their fears, but others may continue to face challenges with anxiety unless they get professional help.”
A great tool to gently encourage your child to manage their anxious thoughts is ‘step-laddering’. This strategy is something I found helpful with my girls, and it was both exciting and rewarding for all of us.
I have created a free printable for you to use with your child, just click on the image or link above to download.
How does the step-ladder approach work?
Set a goal at the top of the ladder – something your child is anxious about and doesn’t feel they can do 'just yet'
Then work with your child to figure out the small steps that will lead them to achieving that big goal
Sometimes your child might need to do one step or situation a few times until they feel comfortable with it, then
Move on to another step/situation that is a bit more challenging for your child. Again, it’s ok to go through it a few times until your child is comfortable
Practice and reward is important. You can encourage your child by giving them lots of praise for all their efforts and for achieving each step on the ladder. Using rewards as incentives for your child to move forward (making sure the reward matches the degree of difficulty for them) are also good motivators
Work with your child to gradually master more challenging situations
I recently read a great article by Karen Young, 'Building Resilience in Children - 20 Practical and Powerful Strategies'.
To save you time and energy, I have created a summarised version. Just click here to download the full sized printable.
You can find the complete article on the awesomely informative website 'Hey Sigmund'.
I have also noted here a few Resilience Courses that you might useful as a good start if you’re interested:
Courageous Kids program: we found this course really helpful several years ago. It is run by Kids First in Brookvale NSW. This is where we learnt about the concept of red and green thinking, learn more about our experience here.
Unfortunately we haven’t done any of the courses mentioned below, but I would be super keen to hear if your child has done any of these or other courses, and what you thought (thanks in advance - click here to share your thoughts):
The Resilience Centre: the course is founded on the Resilient Doughnut model.
Resilience in Kids: they have term workshops and day camps.
Beautiful Minds: has the approval of the Australian Education Department, Marina and her team of 65 expert educators, deliver workshops to thousands of Australian teens and adults each year.
With warmest wishes
Founder of EMBRACE Calmer Kids