Raising Resilient Kids Handout: Psychology Foundation of Canada


everymindmattersA “Raising Resilient Kids” handout for parents has been publishing in the most recent edition of The Psychology Foundation of Canada’s newsletter, Every Mind Matters. The Psychology Foundation of Canada is a charity dedicated to applying the best psychological knowledge to create practical programs helping children become confident and productive adults. The premise of the handout is that, “Resilient children are able to bounce back from adversity and cope with the challenges and stresses of daily life. This resilience comes from a combination of positive attributes, abilities and thinking skills that help people recover from negative experiences, reach out to others, understand their own strengths and weakness and look after themselves.” 

The handout outlines four key areas where parents can help their children develop strengths.

1. Supportive relationships

  • Be ready to listen when children are ready to talk.
  • If you lead a busy life, be aware of little opportunities to connect – during meals and car rides, watching TV or doing chores together.
  • Eat at least one (device-free) meal together.
  • Schedule special time with individual children to do something that you enjoy together
  • Comment on your child’s positive qualities.
  • Show some interest in your child’s interests.

2. Emotional skills

  • Respect children’s emotions. Allow them to express their feelings and try not to make children “feel bad for feeling bad.”
  • Show sympathy for children’s feelings and comfort children when they are distressed.
  • Share positive emotions with your children.
  • Teach children the language of emotion. Use words to describe their feelings and your own feelings.
  • Help children understand their own feelings and the feelings of others.
  • Manage your own emotions as well as you can. Your modeling is the most powerful teacher.

3. Competence

  • Give children time for unstructured play, which teaches them decision-making, problem-solving, and self-confidence.
  • Encourage and support children’s interests; these interests help kids develop skills and knowledge that contribute to their sense of themselves as skilled, competent people.
  • Use positive discipline that helps children understand the impact of their actions.
  • Let children help you with household tasks that involve life skills: cooking, simple repairs, painting, window washing etc.

4. Optimistic thinking

  • Gently challenge children’s negative thoughts.
  • Show children alternative, more positive (but still realistic) ways of looking at negative situations.
  • Model realistic optimism and positive thinking in your own behaviour.
  • Encourage respectful assertiveness and negotiation.

Download the poster-style handout.

KidsCanCopeYou can also download the Kids Can Cope: Parenting Resilient Children at Home and at School booklet for parents from the Psychology Foundation of Canada, as part of their Parenting for Life series.

The booklet looks at a number of areas:

Understanding Resiliency:

  • Resiliency in Children: “One way to think about resiliency and how it develops in children, is to break it into four main sets of assets and abilities.
    • Relationships and reaching out: a sense of belonging, having people who can be there for us and knowing how to reach out to them. Assets in this area include:
      • Strong parent-child relationships
      • Social skills and self-confidence
      • The ability to ask for help
      • Understanding of personal boundaries (your own and those of others)
      • Belonging to communities and groups
    • Emotional skills: the ability to deal with emotions so they don’t overwhelm us. Assets in this area include:
      • Positive self-esteem
      • Ability to calm oneself
      • Ability to talk about feelings
      • Sense of humour
      • Ability to distract oneself
      • Ability to see the hopeful side of problems and challenges
      • Knowing how to act appropriately in various sitiuations
    • Competence: skills and thinking abilities that enable us to solve problems and influence what happens in our lives. Assets in this area include:
      • Goal setting and planning
      • Problem solving and reasoning skills
      • Practical skills, like being able to cook, clean, budget, fix things and find information
      • The ability to look after oneself and be independent
      • Assertiveness
      • Perseverance
      • Good judgement and critical thinking skills
    • Optimism: a positive and hopeful attitude. Assets in this area include:
      • Confidence in one’s skills and abilities
      • Ability to judge risks
      • Positive childhood experiences
      • Supportive family and community
      • Being generous and supportive of others

The booklet gives examples, under each of the four areas, of resiliency skills in action in real-life scenarios. There is a chart of how resiliency develops in children, with age markers for reference; a discussion of culturally-influenced gender differences in resiliency skills development; and a breakdown of how different temperaments, particularly in the areas of activity level, distraction, intensity, regularity, approach/withdrawal, sensitivity, adaptability, persistence, and positive or negative mood, can impact on resiliency skills development.

The section “How Parents Build Resiliency in Children” covers the areas of:

  • Supporting resiliency through strong relationships
  • Supporting resiliency through good communication:
    • Listen, Listen, Listen
    • Respect their feelings
    • Respect their voice
    • Encourage respectful assertiveness
  • Supporting resiliency through positive discipline
    • Learning to make independent decisions
  • Supporting resiliency by teaching optimistic thinking
    • Challenge negative thoughts (gently)
    • Show children a more positive view
    • Model optimistic thinking
  • Supporting resiliency by helping children deal with stress
    • Sources of stress for children
    • What parents can do to help

The final two sections of the booklet look at:

  • Resiliency in School “People often assume that school success is all about how smart you are and how hard you try. Intelligence and effort are both important, but other less obvious factors have a major impact as well. Canadian psychologist Dr. Ester Cole has developed a model for thinking about the factors that contribute to children’s success and resiliency at school.”
    • A parent’s role in education
    • Building learning skills at home
    • Homework overload
    • Other homework helpers
    • Kids need different kinds of help and support at different times
      • The Perfectionist
      • The Easily Distracted Child
      • The Child Who Struggles with School
    • When to seek outside help or tutoring
  • Resiliency for Parents
    • Resiliency boosters for parents
      • Ask for help
      • Learn more about raising children and child development
      • Parenting courses