Building your child’s resilience and ability to bounce back from difficult situations is a great way to prepare your child for setbacks in life. However, no matter how much preparation you do, sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan. Here are our top five tips to help your child – and yourself – cope when times get tough.
1) Listen to their concerns
The old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is key in this situation. By really listening to your child, you’re showing them how important they are to you and that you want to help them work through their concern. Don’t forget that younger children aren’t always able to express how they’re feeling through words, so make sure you keep an eye on their actions too.
2) Maintain routines wherever possible
There will always be things that happen beyond your control. Maintaining regular routines that your child is already familiar with, such as bedtimes, mealtimes and going to school, helps to provide a sense of stability and security. Similarly, children are reassured by knowing that a responsible adult is taking care of them and looking after their needs.
3) Provide reassurance
When something negative happens, children often worry that it will happen again or get worse. By providing them with reassurance and support and giving positive feedback about how they are coping, you are helping your child build their confidence in dealing with a difficult situation. You are also helping them to understand that you will navigate through the negative times together as a family.
4) Let them know it’s okay to express their feelings
All of us deal differently with a crisis. Sometimes children can look like they are coping very well - they may be particularly sensitive to the needs of others and helpful or compliant at these times. They may also have strong feelings beneath the surface. Remember that children can benefit from opportunities to express their feelings openly, and that this is not a sign of weakness.
5) Ask for help
Dealing with a difficult situation often seems much easier if important people in you and your children’s life know what’s happening. Chatting about a challenging time with your children’s school or early childhood education and care (ECEC) service can provide reassurance to you and your child, simply by knowing that school or ECEC staff understand your difficulties and are ready to provide support.
Getting support for yourself through family and friendship networks, your children’s school or mental health or community services is also very important. Support for you helps to build your own resilience so you can provide more effective care for your child.
You may also be interested in the following KidsMatter resource about building protective factors.