Building resilience starts from day one, and the skills can be learned by all children including our most sensitive little ones, new research has found.
Parents and professionals who work with children can help kids develop resilience by creating safe challenges, encouraging supportive relationships and teaching them to think positively, according to new findings from beyondblue.
The research has been used to develop everyday strategies that can be applied in kindergartens, schools and at home to foster resilience in all children.
To coincide with the start of the 2018 school year, beyondblue is launching web-based tips for parents and a new practice guide for professionals, called Building Resilience in Children aged 0-12.
“Most of the existing research about resilience seems to focus on developing this skill during adolescence rather than the early years and through primary school, so we wanted to fill this gap,” beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman said.
“We know that half of all lifetime mental health issues emerge by the age of 14 and experts agree that increasing resilience among children aged 0–12 could potentially prevent mental health issues during childhood and later in life.”
Strategies found to help develop resilience in children include:
• Talking about feelings – encouraging children to discuss their feelings can help them better understand, and regulate, themselves.
• Supporting independence – simple challenges can help them develop strategies to cope when they feel uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to remove the training wheels and let them ride.
• Building closeness with family and friends – knowing they are loved helps build self-esteem.
• Promoting healthy thinking habits – positive thinking can be learned and used to overcome routine mental obstacles.
The strategies are based on a 12-month research project lead by the Parenting Research Centre and Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth. The project reviewed academic research and generated expert consensus on resilience concepts. This research was complemented by consultations with parents, children and practitioners from around the country.
The work aimed to produce practical, evidence-based strategies for parents and professionals working with children, including early childhood educators, teachers and maternal child health nurses.
The Building Resilience in Children aged 0-12 guide contains specific phrases and scenarios that professionals can apply to help build resilience in their students. It can be downloaded free of charge from the beyondblue website: beyondblue.org.au/resilience-guide
For parents, beyondblue has added simple, practical tips to its Healthy Families website: healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/resilience
“With a strong new evidence base, this material will help professionals and parents navigate the overwhelming volume of information about resilience that is publicly available,” Ms Harman said.
The research was funded by beyondblue and major partner Future Generation Global Investment Company (FGG).
FGG CEO Louise Walsh said the company was focused on delivering long-term funding for projects that would deliver meaningful impact.
“beyondblue's focus on building resilience in children aged 0-12 is backed by the latest and most significant mental health research in this crucial early intervention space. We are delighted to have made this project a reality,” Ms Walsh said.
Mental health professionals are available at the beyondblue Support Service via phone 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or via for online chat (3PM – 12AM AEST or email responses (within 24 hours).www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support
Q&A with beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman
Questions for the supplied audio grabs about the Building Resilience in Children age 0-12 Practice Guide. These provide context for the attached mp3 files 1-4.
Question: Why has beyondblue made a guide about resilience?
Georgie Harman: Everybody talks about resilience in kids, building resilient kids, making kids more resilient, but what does that actually mean? This guide is about getting practical, getting down to business. What can parents, teachers, professionals and other people who work with kids do every day to build happy, healthy, resilient kids?
Question: How can parents foster resilience in their kids?
Georgie Harman: Support your kids to be more independent, give them safe healthy challenges, don’t be afraid to remove the training wheels and let the ride. Let them lose at board games, at sport, so they learn how to deal with disappointment and if they fall, let them pick themselves up rather than doing it for them. The point is, kids learn from experience and it can help them.
Question: What are the benefits of fostering resilience in children?
Georgie Harman: Mental health problems start early, half before the age of 14. If we can get in early, teach kids some basic skills through parents, teachers and others, we know that we can prevent a lot of those mental health challenges later in life and we can also build a generation who if they do become mentally unwell, they can cope, they can recover quicker.
Question: Are kids today too soft?
Georgie Harman: I think the trick is to find the balance between nurturing your children, loving them, protecting them, but also giving them safe and healthy challenges, safe and healthy challenges are actually what kids need. We cannot wrap our kids too much in cotton wool. It will not help them as adults, it will not teach them the skills to be able to bounce back from the life adversities that will inevitably happen to us all.