Many caregivers have an almost instinctual drive to protect their children from difficult situations or anything that could cause potential trauma as they grow up. But as much as you’d love to protect them until they’re 30 (and beyond), learning to build resilience in children may help them better manage those setbacks you can’t prevent as they learn to navigate the world.
Resilient children are more likely to have the preparedness they need to discover resolutions when they find themselves in difficult situations. With some strategies for encouraging flexibility and emotional regulation, parents and caregivers can help kids become more resilient and empathetic to the needs of others.
Here, we’ll explore six enjoyable and supporting emotional resilience activities for kids to guide children as they learn to persevere through adversity.
#1 Create an Accomplishment Jar
Whether your little one just finished reading their first book on their own or they finally mastered long division (such a doozy!), it’s helpful for kids to take the time to reflect on their successes. Reflection, using positive language, can be an even more impactful exercise when they’ve accomplished something they’ve been purposefully working towards.
Keeping an accomplishment jar in your household can help highlight the importance of reflection. This helps to home in on your children’s successes and gives them time to reflect on their achievements.
Here are some general guidelines for setting up a successful accomplishment jar:1
- Step 1: Sit down with your kids and discuss one or two reasons they’re proud of themselves that day. From being kind to others to trying something new, nothing is too big or too small of an accomplishment to put in the jar.
- Step 2: Older children can write their achievements on a piece of paper, while younger kids can draw their successes instead. Then, they can place them in the accomplishment jar to be reviewed at the end of the week.
- Step 3: As the week comes to a close, take time together to acknowledge your child’s achievements. Discuss each note or drawing in the jar one at a time and ask your children to discuss what strategies they used to accomplish these victories.
Giving your children time to express positive emotion and feedback (and practice reflection) lets them celebrate their successes while also supporting a growth mindset. Equipped with a growth mindset, your child may be more likely to excel when faced with a challenging situation.
For example, if your little one is learning a new concept at school and is struggling to master it, a growth mindset encourages them to keep trying in the face of adversity. Rather than giving up, they’ll use problem-solving strategies to overcome the obstacle. The accomplishment jar allows children to reflect on the strategies they used to persevere in a challenging situation—and grow resilience along the way.
#2 Make “Mistake” Art
Showing children that it’s okay to make mistakes is an important first step in building their resilience. A fun and effective way to do this is by making “mistake” art. By encouraging children to explore through artwork, they’re able to problem-solve by considering a myriad of alternative approaches to creativity.2 Plus, they’ll have a fridge-worthy result that’s experimental and one-of-a-kind.
To craft mistake art, you’ll need the following supplies:
- Construction paper
- Colored pencils
- Washable paint and paintbrushes (optional)
With your materials in hand, give your child the go-ahead to make their very own oops-filled masterpiece:
- Step 1: Give them a piece of paper and let them choose which art supplies they’d like to draw with.
- Step 2: Tell them to close their eyes and make a line or circle on the paper.
- Step 3: Once they’ve made their first mark (i.e., their “oops”) on the page, remind them that it’s alright to make mistakes. Instead of starting over, they can come up with ways to turn their line into something creative. If they’re unsure of what to do, you can suggest they turn it into an animal or a shape, or incorporate it into an entire artistic scene.
#3 Turn a Negative Into a Positive
Having a growth mindset is a fabulous way to help your kids strengthen their resilience. This can help them face challenges with a positive mindset and a can-do attitude.1
One way to build their growth mindset through your own social support is by turning negative thoughts into positive ones. Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” you can use a growth mindset to turn it into an inspiring thought like, “I can do what I set my mind to.”
Although it’s an excellent skill for children to be able to turn a negative into a positive, it’s also okay for you to first validate their negative feelings. After they have a chance to acknowledge their feelings and feel heard and understood, they can make efforts to turn their frown upside down (and work on establishing a positive mindset).
Below, we’ve compiled a list of steps you can use when negative feelings arise. These steps allow you to acknowledge your child’s negative feelings or thoughts, help them find solutions to their problems, and then reflect by turning their negatives into a positive:
- Step 1: Listen and mirror their words – If you hear one of your children saying something negative about themselves, you can respond to them by mirroring their words. For example, if they say, “I’m so mad that I don’t understand how to read these words,” you can respond by saying, “So you’re telling me that you’re angry that you are having a challenging time with some of those new words.” This lets them know that you’re listening and understand what they’re saying.
- Step 2: Endorse their concerns – Next, validate their feelings—whether they’re feeling frustrated, sad, or another emotion altogether. If they’re disappointed over their inability to pronounce certain words in a book, empathize with them by saying, “Some of these big words are really challenging to sound out, aren’t they?”
- Step 3: Encourage them to use problem-solving strategies – Helping your kids work through their obstacles can introduce them to strategies they can later use to overcome future obstacles. Older children may simply need a gentle nudge, like “I know you’ve faced other challenges before. You know plenty of ways to get through this. Any ideas?” Younger children may need more support as they learn different strategies. You can discuss various options with them until they find one that suits their age and abilities.
- Step 4: Take time to reflect – After they’ve worked to overcome a challenge, lean into the positives. Let them reflect on the problem-solving strategies they used and turn those negative thoughts into positive affirmations. Instead of “I’m not smart enough,” remind them to say, “I’m smart enough to do anything I want to do.” If they didn’t quite surpass their hurdle, you can help them embrace the power of “yet” by simply saying, “I can’t do this yet. But I can learn how.”
When it comes to learning about positive psychology for your children and encouraging it, this seemingly small but effective strategy can gradually alter the way children view themselves and their abilities. When faced with struggles in the future, they’ll be more likely to see a challenge from a place of empowerment (rather than assuming it’ll be too hard to do).
#4 Complete a Self-Awareness Checklist
As your children get older, they’re able to more confidently reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. Filling out a self-awareness checklist allows them to consider:1
- How to improve some of their weaker areas
- What some of the causes of their current stressors are
- How being self-aware can contribute to self-improvement
You can create a catalog of questions depending on their age. Older children can take the time to analyze their thoughts and respond by putting pen to paper. Younger children can give you their answers verbally.
Here are some thoughtful questions you may want to include on your checklist:
- I can do things like (fill in the blank).
- Areas that could use improvement are (fill in the blank).
- I learn best when (fill in the blank).
- I am most stressed when (fill in the blank).
- I need the most help with (fill in the blank).
- The best ways I can receive help are (fill in the blank).
With their responses in hand, you and your children can work together to determine the best course of action to help them through their stressors and when to ask for help, both of which can improve their resiliency when faced with a future challenge.
#5 Reflect with a Resilience Journal or Family Art Time
As your child continues to build perseverance, you can help them trust in their abilities by providing them with a concrete approach: journaling examples of times they demonstrated resilience. Reflecting on the challenges they’ve already overcome can be a reminder of the instances that made them feel like strong and confident individuals.
Here are some tips to consider when helping them create a resilience journal:
- Agree on how often they’ll be writing in their journal. It could be once a week, twice a month, or perhaps once a month.
- Keep a journal of your own and share some of your personal victories with your children. Sharing your entries may allow them to empathize with your hurdles and can help them develop new strategies when faced with challenges in the future.
Younger children can participate in this activity, too. If you are a parent to smaller kids, you can turn journaling into more of an art-based family affair:
- Whip out the construction paper, markers, and glitter glue.
- Doodle your successes on paper—yes, you too! This gives younger kids the chance to get accustomed to the activity.
- Once they understand what they’re doing and the why behind the what, you can set them loose to finish their art on their own each week—or make it an official family activity.
#6 Read Books About Resilience
Reflecting on your experiences isn’t the only way to learn about resilience. When it comes to healthy parenting, you (and your kids) can have your cake and eat it too by sharing the excitement and joy that reading can bring while simultaneously learning more about what being resilient entails.
Young children can benefit from learning alongside the Resilience Crew, who are firm believers that you can overcome challenging times by counting on others to help you get through. Take Alpaca, for example. As a member of the Resilience Crew, their book focuses on helping children to articulate their feelings and share their worries with others. This helps them feel more confident and resilient when faced with obstacles in the future.
Another excellent book about resilience is Weathering the Storm. Through thoughtful and engaging rhyming prose, the story explains that it’s okay to feel sad or frightened when something unexpected occurs. It goes on to teach children that they can count on others to help them overcome their fears or uncertainties and that they’re never alone.
Teach Your Kids Resilience with Slumberkins
Supporting your child as they begin to lay the foundations of resilience will take time and patience, but it prepares them for a lifetime of confidence and success. You can start by practicing some problem solving activities for kids to help them find solutions for challenges or obstacles they face in the future.
At the end of the day, it all starts with building a strong connection with your child, whether that’s by reading social emotional learning books that can help them reflect on their emotions or by cozying up with their favorite snugglers as they fill out their journals.
Whichever tools you use to help kids reflect on their feelings, accomplishments, and lessons, learning and building resilience is a lifelong adventure your kids can reflect on as they grow. And Slumberkins is here to help. Connect with us today.
- Crockett, Lee. "10 of the Best Growth Mindset Activities for Kids." Future Focused Learning. https://blog.futurefocusedlearning.net/growth-mindset-activities-kids
- "“Mistake” Art (Line Drawing)." Virginia. https://doe.virginia.gov/instruction/fine_arts/visual_arts/ip/va-ip-e-mistakeline.pdf
- Pay, Christina. "Improve Mental Health with Acts of Kindness." Utah State University. 16 February, 2021. https://extension.usu.edu/mentalhealth/articles/improve-mental-health-with-acts-of-kindness