Building Resilience in Primary School Children
By Cathryn Prendergast
Primary school is a time of learning and discovery, and a time when children are continually engaged in trial and error learning. They’re learning emotionally, socially, and cognitively via their schoolwork and in the playground.
Primary school is also a period when children take greater self-initiative to learn about their interests and develop their strengths.
So how can we best support our children through this time of growth and learning?
Apart from the importance of good nutrition, sleep routines, and exercise, let’s look at 3 key tips to help to develop emotional resilience.
TIP 1: Teach your child to problem solve challenges.
Helping your child build problem solving skills involves several components, including:
- Talking openly about problems at school and socially, and encouraging your child to think in terms of problem solving (e.g. "What do you think we can do to change things?"). Even if there are problems that cannot be 'fixed', you can teach the skill of dealing with the outcomes.
- Showing (via modelling and instruction) how to break down problems into smaller steps and offer praise and encouragement each time a step is completed. In doing so, you demonstrate that approaching (rather than avoiding) problems is part of everyday life, and you also help develop your child's thinking cap when it comes to problem solving
- Guiding your child throughout the problem solving process and working together on problem solving teaches your child that teamwork or extra support may, at times, be required.
TIP 2: Teach emotion regulation techniques.
Primary school is also a time for great emotional growth for children and learning to regulate different emotions is a skill that will serve them well into adulthood. Steps to try include:
- Teaching your child to label emotions; make sense of them by talking about the reasons why they feel these emotions and respond to them as opposed to ignoring them.
- Helping your child to manage their expectations when it comes to emotions. Primary school is a time when children are trying different things out, some of which will work and some won't. Help your child to understand that both achievement and disappointment are emotions that are natural.
- Teaching your child that emotions can often signal important values and moral lessons to be learned. They can also guide future behaviours (e.g. If your child is angry because he feels left out by his friends during recess you can try, “I'm sorry to hear that you feel angry because you felt left out. How about we talk about what's happened and maybe we can try to figure out how to talk to them next time?”).
TIP 3: Encourage self expression and decision making.
At this stage in their lives children are really starting to develop their own expression and flex their decision making muscles. To help them along this journey try:
- Helping your child to further explore their areas of interest and unique strengths; ask them questions about what they’ve discovered and what they enjoy.
- Listening to their opinions on things and reflect back what you hear. Instead of 'right vs. wrong', share with them your thoughts and opinions.
- Encourage decision making even when your child becomes defiant, “I get that you’re frustrated because you want to stay up even thought you have school tomorrow. Since we only have a bit of time left, do you want to read a book before bedtime or do you want to spend your book time talking about the decision instead?”
With these 3 simple tips we hope it helps your child get more out of primary school. As with any skill, keep practising and you can set your child up with some skills for life.
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