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How tamariki develop resilience and how to support them.

Developing resilience

Resilience is about learning to cope with life’s ups and downs. In young children it develops over time as they work through little challenges while they’re supported by caring adults.

There’s no need for any special teaching and learning activities for resilience to develop. Simple day-to-day problem-solving while playing with an interested big person beside them is all that’s required.

Learning to cope with manageable threats is critical for the development of resilience. These necessary ‘minor’ stress situations can occur daily. It might be when they’re having adventures, doing activities together, learning to play on playground equipment, or playing games like cards, hide-and-seek or peek-a-boo (with younger children). There are loads of activities that young children can enjoy together with whānau where they learn how to manage a little bit of stress.

It may simply be from the physical challenge of an activity such as making it up the ladder of the slide by themselves. It could be through the rules of a particular game, for example, standing behind a line and throwing the ball into a bucket. Or it may be that moment of frustration when they can’t find someone who's hiding.

Building over time

Over time these little challenges all add up to help young children build their capacity for resilience. This managing stress practice not only helps with the development of resilience, but also with a child’s confidence in themselves and their overall sense of security.

Adults are always role models for their tamariki. Adults can build on their own ability to bounce back from stress by participating in health-promoting and stress-reducing activities themselves. By taking care of themselves, adults are better able to be the parents they want to be. They can feel calmer, have more energy and are more likely to respond thoughtfully to their kids rather than reacting without thinking.

Simply playing together and looking after ourselves helps to create a positive environment for resilience and wellbeing to flourish that benefits the whole whānau.

Happy, healthy parents = happy, healthy tamariki.

Never too late to start

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University tells us it’s never too late to start building resilience. They’ve identified four protective factors as key in the building of resilience in children:

1. At least one caring and supportive adult-child relationship in their life

2. A sense of control over what’s happening around or to them

3. Opportunities to strengthen their self-regulation and adaptive skills

4. Feelings of security are strengthened via whānau, hapū and iwi (community) and cultural connectedness.

Other resources

Resilience | Center on the Developing Child(external link)

This article stresses that what makes the difference between a child swamped by life’s traumas and one who rises above is having at least one adult who builds a strong, supportive relationship with them:

The science of resilience: Why some children thrive despite adversity | Harvard Graduate School of Education(external link)