Centre for Community Child Health

Resilience in childhood

  • resilience in childhood

    Learning how to deal with the challenges that life brings is one of the important tasks of the first eight years. When kids learn to manage difficult experiences it can make a big difference to their immediate and long term success and wellbeing. Your relationship with children and the support that you give them will help them to develop their skills and resilience.

     

     

    The role and importance of resilience

    Resilience makes it possible for children and adults to face, overcome and even be strengthened by challenges in their lives. Challenges that kids might experience include:

    Challenge   Example 
    Adversity Experiencing a bushfire, flood or other natural disaster
    Trauma Being injured in a car accident
    Tragedy Losing a parent to illness or accident
    Ongoing sources of stress Living in a home with parental alcohol or drug abuse
    Everyday setbacks Missing the goal in a footy match, getting a question wrong in class, not being invited to a birthday party

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    Risk and protective factors for resilience

    Children experience both protective factors that help them to bounce back, like a loving family, and risk factors that can make life harder like early separation from the main caregiver. These factors will play an important role in the way that their resilience develops.

    Protective factors

    Resilience needs to be developed and nurtured from the start of life for the best outcomes. Protective factors include:

    • skills and personal qualities, such as problem-solving skills, decision-making skills, optimism, self-esteem and a realistic sense of personal control
    • social supports, such as the child’s relationships with their immediate and extended family, and friends and teachers 
    • community resources and supports, such as schools, childcare settings, services or parks.

    Resilient children are likely to come from home environments with warmth and affection, emotional support, and clear and reasonable guidelines. They tend to have at least one adult in their lives who they identify with and who they gather strength from. When this isn’t present in the home this one influential adult often turns out to be a teacher—one caring adult can have a big impact on a child’s life course.

    Risk factors

    Risk factors can be personal or environmental. Personal risk factors might include disability or early childhood illness.

    Environmental risk factors might include child abuse, marital conflict, parental criminality, parental mental illness or harsh discipline.

    The way that a child responds to these risk factors is influenced by their early experiences and supportive relationships in developing skills and personal characteristics for resilience.

    Helping children to learn resilience

    Teachers and early childhood educators can play an enormous part in building kids’ resilience. Read these articles for more:

    Promoting resilience

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