What works to support children’s wellbeing and resilience.

Wellbeing and resilience are not skills you are born with, nor can they be handed on by wise advice, they are skills which have to be learned. Developing the skills which create wellbeing puts a young person in control of their own destiny. They will know how to make good choices, avoid temptations and create a life that brings them happiness and fulfillment. The path to maturity and independence is long and has twists and turns along the way. Over protection may avoid hazards but leaves young adults vulnerable when they need to make decisions. It is better to be prepared through independence gained slowly and carefully. Until a child feels secure and competent in what they are doing they will need the people in their life to offer support and guidance in making choices. Here are 10 strategies which will help to build the competence and self-knowledge to maintain their wellbeing.

  1. Look at the world through the child’s eyes to be aware of both how they feel and what practical skills and thinking strategies are needed to manage a situation successfully. What will work best for them?
  2. Set realistic expectations based on both what suits the child and what their age and stage of development will allow. Children can be ahead in some areas and less so in others. Aim not to set expectations which are possible but not too big a stretch.
  3. Warmth and rapport are the top qualities which influence others and sustain relationships. Advice falls on stony ground when someone instructs rather than supports. Think Connect rather than Correct. A child looks for positive and constructive feedback to let them know how they are progressing. Adults however are only human and we need to ensure our own needs and feelings do not get in the way.
  4. Circles of support. There is a saying that it a takes a village to raise a child. This is true not only for the child but also for adults who are responsible for the child’s welfare. You need others to turn to who can step in at a practical level or just listen and let you let off steam. Sometimes that support network is within your local community but for many people now online social support has become increasingly important.
  5. Focus on building strengths. People who feel competent are more likely to be confident. The greater the child’s competence the more likely they are to cope with what they find challenging. What strengths can be used to make any changes needed? .
  6. Create strong boundaries which keep a child within their zone of competence. Firm boundaries are like scaffolding, providing support until a child demonstrates sufficient knowledge, skills and maturity to handle that situation independently.
  7. Provide lots of supported practice. Most children now grow up in small families and spend their days in school with others the same age. The opportunities for learning by observation and example can be narrower now than in previous generations when children played outside in mixed age groups. Think about what might broaden their experience and provide good role models.
  8. Accept mistakes. Progress rarely goes in a straight line. When things don’t go according to plan we can either become frustrated and demotivated or we can explore what this tells us to inform what we do next. A growth mindset helps a child live with mistakes and profit from them.
  9. Be aware of other influences. Role models shape children’s thinking and aspirations. They can either inspire and inform or make a child feel dissatisfied with themselves. The child’s peer group is hugely important as a source of belonging and building identity but can also play up a child’s vulnerabilities. Similarly the media offers images which attract a young person but if they are too far out of reach they cause deep dissatisfaction. You can help them consider and make sense of these influences for themselves. Equally you can draw attention to role models who are resilient, or very optimistic or passionate about doing something well.
  10. Celebrate success. When you focus on what is happening right now rather than any lengthy “to do list” you start to notice what is going well and what you can savour and feel grateful for. Young people need to develop the habit of being in the moment and appreciating what is happening around them and what they are capable of contributing, too much negativity is draining.




About hooperj

I am a child psychologist and wellbeing coach and author of What Children Need to be Happy, Confident and Successful: Step by Step Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish which is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
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