9 Things Children Need To Be Resilient Strategies to help them grow

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The Strategies

  1. Structure
  2. Consequences
  3. Parent-child connections
  4. Lots and lots of strong relationships
  5. Powerful identity
  6. Sense of control
  7. Sense of belonging
  8. Fair and just treatment
  9. Physical and psychological safety


~Our children want a reasonable amount of structure. It convinces them that their parents love them.

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Practical things caregivers can do:

 Give your child rules: bedtimes when younger; expectations for chores and homework when older.

 Be clear about how you expect to be spoken to, and model that same behaviour when speaking with your child.

 As your child grows, increase the decisions that they can make on his own.

 When you tell you child they can’t do something, be sure your decision makes sense. If it looks like you are over-reacting you will lose credibility.

 When you are sure you know better, and have to tell a child “Wait” or “You can’t do that,” be sure to promise to revisit your decision when the child is older.

Create predictable routines related to daily activities: sleep, meals, chores, play, daily self-care, etc.

2. Consequences

~Our children want the security of knowing there are reasonable consequences to their actions.

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Practical things caregivers can do:

 When you discipline a child, be sure the child understands what they did wrong. It’s all right if the child feels embarrassment or shame, but they should also be shown how to repair harm.

 No empty threats. Do what you say you will do.

 When disciplining a child, make sure they are kept safe and their needs are met. Discipline is not the same as punishment.

If a child’s behaviour has affected more than one person, then everyone affected should be a part of the solution. A child should feel accountable to the people impacted by their choices.

 Give a child the chance to fix their mistakes.

 Give a child a chance to apologize.

 Show a child how what they did affected others rather than just telling them they did something wrong.

3. Parent-child connections

~Our children really do want connections with their parents, but those connections will look very different at each age and stage of development.

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Practical things caregivers can do:

 Sometimes hugs are more powerful than words.

 The quantity of the time we give to a child is sometimes more important than the quality. Our child may want us there, waiting, even if he doesn’t appear to need us just then.

 Put down our phone, turn off our computer and open space for our child to approach us.

 Eat together as a family regularly.

 Take time each day to find out what a child did at school, at a friend’s, or out in the community.

 Share an activity together as a family.

 Insist the child help others with a task that will be noticed by others in the family.

 Travel together.

 Kiss your child goodnight, no matter how old they are.

4. Lots and lots of strong relationships

~Children live in interdependent worlds that bring them the possibility of lots of supportive relationships. Our job as adults is to help them nurture these connections.

Photo by Juliane Liebermann, Ivana Cajina, and Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash

Practical things caregivers can do:

 Celebrate special occasions together.

 Tell a child about a problem that you are struggling with as an adult, and ask for the child’s help to solve it.

 Catch a child doing something good and let others know what you saw.

 Encourage a child to make friends with people who are different from them in any way.

 Leave your child alone with people who are there to help your child, like coaches.

 Encourage your child to visit other families, go on sleepovers and spend time with grandparents, aunts and uncles (when appropriate).

5. A powerful identity

~As adults, we are mirrors to our children. We reflect back to them who they are and how much they are valued.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Practical things caregivers can do:

 Provide opportunities for your child to experiment with different identities.

 Encourage your child to volunteer, work, or travel when ready and able.

 Encourage your child to participate in different activities, even if they are likely to fail.

 Tell a child what you think of the identities they have chosen. You don’t have to like your child’s choices.

 Tell your child about your own childhood and the identities you tried.

 Encourage your child to look around their family and community for people they admire and would like to grow up to be like.

 Encourage your child to experiment with the clothes they wear and other impermanent ways of trying a new identity.

 Talk to your child about the consequences of making a commitment to an identity before they are sure they want that identity forever (e.g., getting a tattoo, or not taking science in high school).

6. Sense of control

~Children need opportunities to control their own lives and learn the consequences of their actions. Children who experience manageable amounts of risk and responsibility have the risk-taker’s advantage. They are better prepared for future challenges having learned how to solve problems early.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Practical things caregivers can do:

 Let a child experience manageable and age-appropriate amounts of risk and responsibility. To the degree possible, let them feel the impact of their choices. Help them determine next steps.

 Give a child opportunities to make age-appropriate decisions for themselves, like what they wear, eat, and when they go to bed. If their choices begin to cause problems, use these problems as teachable moments and coach the child on how to make better decisions.

 Don’t be shy about telling your child that their failure was something they could have controlled. Stay calm and curious when speaking.

 Don’t be shy about telling your child that their failure was something they did not have the power to control, no matter how hard they tried.

 When children are successful, celebrate their success.

 Give children an allowance so they can manage their own money.

7. Sense of belonging

Children need to know they belong in their families, as well as at their schools and in their communities. They need to believe their lives have a purpose and that their families, peers, and communities need them.

Photo by Wayne Lee-Sing on Unsplash

Practical things caregivers can do:

 Help your child participate in many different activities and groups.

 Rather than telling your child who to be friends with, ask your child why they have chosen their peer group? What is it about these other children that your child likes?

 Involve your child in family traditions. Make them transparent. Be consistent.

 Talk to your child about what you believe in, but be sure to leave space for your child to ask questions and disagree.

 Ask your child to contribute to making your family work better.

8. Fair and just treatment

Children need to experience their homes and schools as places where they are treated fairly. Children need to be protected from racism, sexism, and other forms of intolerance.

Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash

Practical things caregivers can do:

 Tell stories. Encourage family elders to talk about their experiences growing up and their coping strategies.

 When a child is treated unfairly, show the child how to defend themselves and advocate for their rights. Only advocate on their behalf if you are sure the child can’t protect themselves without your help.

 Share your home with people who are different, in any way imagineable. This will help your child understand that people have different values and beliefs.

 Encourage your child to defend someone else’s rights when your child sees him or her being mistreated.

 Watch movies about political struggle. Watch the news and talk about what you see. Celebrate holidays that have a political message. Be sure to explain to your child what the holiday means.

 Inspire your child to fight back and advocate for self when they feel mistreated. Help them find ways to respond that will be respected by others.

 Avoid overprotecting your child from every hurt, bully, and injustice. While your child is young enough to be coached by you, let them experience being treated unfairly so that you can teach them how to speak up for themselves.

9. Physical and psychological safety

~Our children need access to the resources that make them healthy. This includes housing, safe streets, well-resourced schools, and parents with the time to pay attention to them.

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Practical things caregivers can do:

 Distinguish between what a child needs and wants. Giving children everything they want may actually cause more problems than it solves.

 Help children access the services that are available.

 When formal services aren’t available, explore the volunteer services that are available like food banks, service clubs and religious organizations.

 Look for help for a child from her informal supports such as their extended family, congregation or friends.

 Ensure a child has good food, and does not go to school hungry.

 Advocate for a child to get what they need in the least intrusive way possible. Before we send an anxious child to a psychiatrist, look at what we can do to make the child feel safer. Before we call the police to deal with a delinquent or violent child, see if there is an extended family member who is willing to help care for the child temporarily.

Mary Perfitt-Nelson, MA, SSP

Mental Health Consultant, Teacher and School Psychologist

Oakland Schools Mary.Perfitt-Nelson@oakland.k12.mi.us

Created By
Mary Perfitt-Nelson


Created with images by MI PHAM - "Children’s smile" • Miguel Bruna - "2018 he we come!"