Children need to develop resilience to help them cope with and respond to challenging times in life. 

A key component of resilience is having an optimistic outlook, and maintaining a positive attitude to the situations we are faced with.  This is sometimes not something that comes naturally to people, and certainly young children need help to shape an optimistic attitude.  Even as adults, this can be a big ask!

So how can we help children to develop this optimism?  Let’s start by looking at different sources of resilience that have been identified in the International Resilience Project.  These sources can be divided into three groups - a set of inner personal strengths (I AM), a set of interpersonal skills (I CAN) and external supports and resources available to the child (I HAVE).

I AM

  • A person people can like and love

  • Glad to do nice things for others and show my concern

  • Respectful of myself and others

  • Willing to be responsible for what I do

  • Sure things will be all right

I CAN

  • Talk to others about things that frighten me or bother me

  • Find ways to solve problems that I face

  • Control myself when I feel like doing something not right or dangerous

  • Figure out when it is a good time to talk to someone or to take action

  • Find someone to help me when I need it

I HAVE

  • People I trust and who love me unconditionally

  • People who set limits for me

  • People who lead by example

  • People who encourage me to be independent

  • People who help me when I am sick, in danger or need to learn

These attributes all contribute to a person’s sense of resilience and are sources of strength that they can draw on in adverse times.

There are some practical tools that parents can use to help encourage the attributes of resilience.  They are called the HAPPY Principles. It’s important to be aware that the HAPPY Principles are NOT about being happy all the time. Children must be allowed to express a range of emotions, and anger, sadness and worry are just as legitimate emotions as happiness and joy.

The HAPPY Principles are:

Have a go: Break tasks and games into manageable pieces so children can succeed. Try to celebrate your child’s successes.

Accept both success and loss: Keep an eye on your helpful and unhelpful thinking as this may influence your child.

Practice: Allow your child to watch you practise and persevere at activities you enjoy. This will teach your child to do the same.

Plan for the best outcome: Encourage children to think situations over and choose outcomes that are enjoyable and build confidence.

Getting to Yes: Optimism and resilience arise from succeeding even after setbacks

For more information on supporting children to keep a balance, click here.