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5 Ways To Help Your Child Build Resilience

By Divya K Chhabra, M.D.

Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NYU Langone Health

At Noggin, we believe that promoting both physical and mental well-being is paramount for our kids. After all, they are the future! With COVID turning things upside down for many of our young ones (and for a large part of their lives) and their families, mental health issues have been on the rise. And for our youngest ones, their brains and bodies have been in a critical stage of development as they learn to navigate the world and do many new things for the first time. We know this may seem daunting, but Noggin is here to support you and your family. There are many strategies to help your child develop resilience – which can be key in supporting our little ones to handle anything that comes their way, especially during times like these.

What is resilience?

‘Resilience’ is often used to describe someone whom we find to be naturally strong and easily able to get through trying times. This is a myth! While resilience is defined as the ability to successfully adapt to challenging life situations, it is not something that only some people have, and most definitely not completely natural. In fact, resilience is something your child can practice – just like swimming or dance or writing. Think of resilience as a muscle they can build by using it every day. By building a resilient mind, your child will learn to navigate an unpredictable world so that they can continue to develop, mature, and experience a fulfilling and happy life!

Here are five research-backed strategies from all of us at Noggin to help your child build resilience! Even more, Noggin’s Big Hearts and Healthy Heroes content can help your child develop each of these skills.

Support your child in building strong relationships

Research tells us that for kids, having just one strong adult relationship – whether it is a parent, family member, caretaker, friend, teacher, or any other supportive adult – can be a key ingredient in resilience and helping your child bounce back from adversity. Foster your relationship with your child by spending quality time together, even if this means five to ten minutes of “special time” at the end of a long day. One strategy to strengthen an adult relationship is to let your child lead the “special” time activity and for the adult to observe and comment with no judgment! For instance, “It looks like you are drawing a rocketship!” instead of “You are drawing the rocketship so well!”

Kids also benefit greatly from developing relationships with their siblings and peers. Plan play dates that incorporate interactive activities with other children, such as playing dress up or going to the park. Virtual interactions such as FaceTime can also help strengthen relationships!

Explore more with Noggin: Check out Noggin’s friendship card activity for a fun way to help your child appreciate friends.

Encourage your child to identify and express their feelings.

From the moment we open our eyes, we all experience feelings. Little ones experience big feelings just like older kids or adults do, but they are still learning to make sense of and communicate those emotions. Even though processing feelings may be an everyday activity for adults, building what is called ‘emotional resilience’ (or the ability to identify, express, and cope with feelings) for a child can make the world of difference. Letting your child know that having all kinds of feelings such as anger, happiness, and sadness is OK is a great first step in building this muscle. Next, you can model for your child what your emotions are and how you experience them. For example, “When I am sad, my tummy feels icky and my cheeks turn pink! What about you?”

Explore more with Noggin: With Noggin’s Big Heart feelings content, you can help your child learn to both label and express their emotions.

Empower your child to help others!

During times where both families and kids from all walks of life have felt a sense of powerlessness, helping others can be very empowering. On top of this, helping others is actually a researched part of building resilience. For young ones, helping can include the simplest of tasks, from helping salt a meal or choosing a little sibling’s outfit to a family trip to a food bank (which also promotes building relationships!).

Explore more with Noggin: Both Noggin’s Big Hearts content on helping others and global citizenship can empower your child to build confidence in how they can influence the world in a positive way, starting right at home.

Help your child to become a little problem solver!

Just as Albert Einstein said, “A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” For little ones, making mistakes in an environment where they feel safe and secure can help them to build self-confidence in their own abilities, which will help them build the skills to thrive in the face of adversity. The secret here is to reframe everyday problems as learning opportunities and to encourage your child to express their feelings (see number 2) along the way! Say your child is struggling to complete a puzzle – simple words such as “Let’s try a different way” or “You are learning from your mistakes!” can help them to believe in themself as they tackle the problem at hand.

Explore more with Noggin: Noggin’s Big Hearts content on problem solving is a great way for your child to learn the many building blocks of this skill, such as teamwork, sharing, and patience.

Model healthy routines and habits for your child.

You guessed it – wellness starts early! Young kids’ brains are changing each and every day and this critical period is the perfect opportunity to build the skill of developing a habit. This prepares your child with the ability to pick up healthy habits as they grow and learn what works for them! Studies have shown that habits such as eating healthy, brushing teeth, and washing our hands – and having predictable, set routines for these habits – can help build resilience and lessen stress. This is a great opportunity for the whole family and can also promote bonding. Easy ways to model healthy routines include eating meals together as a family or having your child come up with a daily routine that they can decorate and place on the wall. Another great daily ritual that your family can do together is incorporating a mindfulness activity before bed.

Explore more with Noggin: Try out Noggin’s Health Heroes content, which can help your child practice daily routines, get them exercising, and even guide the whole family through mindfulness exercises called Imagination Trips!

At Noggin, we are here to remind you that you CAN help your child build the skills for mental and physical well-being, even with the unfortunate consequences of the pandemic. In fact,you may already be incorporating resilience-building skills into your child’s life without even realizing it! And with all that we know you are juggling, Noggin is a great resource for your child to learn these building blocks of well-being.

To learn even more about helping your child build resilience, check out some of Noggin’s favorite resources: The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel and Dr. Becky’s Good Inside.

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New content added weekly

Accessible on multiple devices

Downloadable books & games for offline play