How Parents Can Build Resilience in Children Through Play

How Parents Can Build Resilience in Children Through Play

It can be great to have a smart child, the one who easily completes tasks put in front of them and can see their success and feel proud. But what happens if that smart child is given a task that’s not so easy? Unfortunately a smart child will often feel like a failure and make harsh decisions that they are not smart enough, not capable enough or not deserving enough to get to the other side of the issue. 

Whether your child is naturally clever or not, there is a mental tool that they can learn that will give them the edge over any challenge, no matter how rough, tough or intimidating. It’s called resilience and it can empower any child to learn, grow and succeed for the rest of their lives.

What is Resilience?

Hard tasks, ones out of a known comfort zone don’t take smarts to overcome, it takes resilience, or what U.S. psychologists have termed ‘grittiness’. Resilience is the ability to knuckle down and push through even when tasked with something daunting. It trumps being smart because it’s always accessible, even for subjects, problems or experiences your child isn’t naturally gifted at or well versed in.

When your child shows resilience they will have the capacity to power through anything life throws at them and find a solution, compromise or a way to let it go.

Where Does Resilience Come From?

Anyone can learn resilience through patience and consistent support to see things from different angles and try again. Overall resilience building comes from a combination of nurturing relationships, proof of positive outcomes and adaptive skill-building.

A child’s natural tendency for resilience will vary depending on their personality, emotional temperament and biological make-up so it’s important to let them go at their own speed. 

Having a stable and nurturing relationship with a supportive parent is enough, although everyone in the community, from close relatives and peers to playgroups and sports coaches can help.

Rather than protect or shield a child from difficult issues, be there to talk things over, discuss ideas and find solutions together. If you need help a child psychologist can give expert opinions and tailor activities to your individual needs.

How to Build Resilience in Children through Play

The best way to encourage and support kids is to play. Games are a great way to introduce life lessons so kids won’t even know they are learning. When it feels fun and engaging they will jump into it with enthusiasm and frequency, both of which are important for creating life-long learning.

For younger kids who say they can’t do something, make a game of “I bet I can do it before you do”. See how fast they are to take up the challenge that previously they had written off. A good example is learning to pull up their own pants. Putting on every pair of pants they own at once won’t feel like practice, but it is.

For older kids, trial and error can be a game in itself. As long as they feel supported in making mistakes and they can feel free of criticism, shame or guilt, they can jump into ‘failure’ and have fun experimenting to see what kinds of different results they can achieve, learning the entire time. Natural subjects that can assist are any sport, science, games and crafts.

Parents, carers and close adults can help build resilience through:

  1. Fostering encouraging and supportive relationships
  2. Developing a child’s independence by allowing them to do it themselves
  3. Helping them identify, express and manage their emotions
  4. Letting them face personal challenges in their own way

Not all stress is harmful. Exposure to manageable threats in childhood builds character and resilience for adulthood. While being independent, your child doesn’t have to do it alone. You can be there to encourage, suggest, acknowledge and listen. The main thing is your child gets a feeling that they are capable and have the capacity to achieve anything in life, as long as they stay flexible, learn from experiences and push through.


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