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By Fraser Day Treatment Lead Taylor Voeller and Pam Dewey • resilience, resiliency, resilient, teaching kids resiliency, teach kids to be resilient, teaching resiliency, teaching kids about failure, teaching children about failure, modeling emotions for kids, parents teaching kids how to be successful, responding to failure, parents model emotions, how to model emotions, teaching children flexibility, kids and flexibility, supporting kids resiliency • February 15, 2024

Kids are taught the importance of success at school, in the media and likely by you, their parents. While every parent wants their kids to do well, you also know failure is a core component of success.

So, to become successful, kids must learn how to respond to failure; essentially, they need to learn how to be resilient. Here are 5 ways to teach your children how to be resilient.

Model emotions and healthy responses

One way to teach resiliency is to show kids how to identify and respond to emotions. Parents can do this by modeling their emotions. When you feel frustrated, express that out loud. Then, model a healthy way to handle your frustration, like saying, ‘I’m frustrated, so I’m going to take a break and sit by myself for a little bit.’ By modeling, you teach your child to recognize different feelings and help them practice coping strategies to deal with those feelings.

“When kids deal with a difficult situation, it’s important for them to learn to recognize the emotions they’re feeling,” says Taylor Voeller, Fraser Day Treatment lead. “In therapy, we talk about different feelings experienced during the week, how big those emotions felt at the time and how these emotions feel now. This helps kids recognize feelings aren’t going to last forever. We also work on learning to accept feelings and realizing there is nothing wrong with a particular feeling.”

Do less performance praise

While celebrating your child’s successes is normal, you should also recognize successes that aren’t tied to performance. Voeller says that instead of praising your child for an A+ on a math test, try recognizing them for using all the colors when painting a picture. Or, praise them for sticking with a difficult task instead of giving up. When you focus on performance praise, you encourage perfectionism, Voeller says, and don’t teach kids how to respond to failure.  

Normalize failure

Another way to teach resilience is to normalize failure. Tell your kids that everyone fails sometimes, and that failure is an important part of the learning process. Share an example of when you failed. Maybe it was when you tried to cut your own bangs and nearly cut your bangs completely off. Or, perhaps it was the time you applied for a job, but didn’t get it.

Turn it into a learning opportunity

Then, explain how you responded to your failure. So, even though you nearly cut off all your bangs, you learned an important lesson: you shouldn’t cut your own hair. You also got creative and devised another way to style your hair until it grew out. Problem-solving is an important part of resiliency. When your child experiences failure, help them figure out what went wrong, and how they can respond and improve the results for next time.

You can also talk about how they’ve successfully handled hardships in the past and help them understand that these past failures helped build the strength to address future challenges.

Teach flexibility

Being resilient also means learning to be flexible. Since life doesn’t always go to plan, teaching your kids to be flexible allows them to react positively to a challenging situation. Voeller suggests helping your kids make backup plans, so they can plan to address difficult situations ahead of time. If your child is worried about a test, brainstorm with them so they have a plan if they get stuck. Suggest that they ask their teacher a question, take a couple deep breaths or pause and take a drink of water.

“In therapy, I might say to kids, ‘Let’s practice being flexible, or let’s use our flexible brain,’” says Voeller.

She often uses the workbook “Superflex and the Team of Unthinkables” to teach kids how to be more flexible with their thinking.

You can help your child become resilient by teaching them to identify and respond to emotions, give less performance praise, normalize failure, problem-solve and encourage flexibility.