Resilience training to kids: Top 3 activities to train kids to be resilient

“Highly resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change.”

— Lawrence Albert Siebert

Do you want that when your kids are knocked down by life, they can come back stronger than ever? Do you want your kids to have the ability to acknowledge a negative situation, learn from it and then move forward? The level of a person’s resilience will determine not only his level of success, but also his physical health. A long-term study of 99 Harvard men showed that the way people view negative life events predicted their physical health 35 years later.

Though we can only observe resilience in our kids (or the lack of it) when they’re faced with obstacles, stress, or other environmental threats, we parents can always start to train them to be optimistic and to have the ability to regulate emotions when they’re still young.

Resilience can be learned

Resilience training are now widely adopted by army, businesses and schools. Neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner has shown in a research at Columbia that you can actually teach people with negative initial response to an incidents to think differently by reframing the incident in positive terms. Or to train people to better regulate their emotions to handle set-backs better.

Strategy resilient people adopt

    • Resilient people are adept at seeing things from another person’s point of view. They know that tragedies don’t only happen to them but also others. When we empathise with others, we feel less alone and less entrenched in pain. As a result, we recover faster.
    • Resilient people tend to find some silver lining in even the worst of circumstances. While they certainly see and acknowledge the bad, they will find a way to also see the good. They view difficulties as challenges and challenges as opportunities to grow and evolve.
    • Resilient people are able to see an incident as temporary rather than permanent. They believe that the situation can be changed and they have a positive image of the future.
    • Resilient people believe that life is meaningful. Frank in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ realised that if he’s to survive the concentration camp, he had to find some purposes. By setting concrete goals for himself, he succeeded in rising above the sufferings of the moment.
    • Resilient people take care of themselves with a regular routine of healthy habits, the foundation to both mental and emotional resilience. They sleep and eat well, they spend enough time outdoor in nice weather and they have strong social connections with others.

Top 3 Activities To Train Your Kids To Be Resilient

1.  Sharing with your kids real life stories of successful people and what they came across before becoming successful.

There are tons of real life stories of people who bounce back from tough times, from Thomas Edison who invented lightbulbs after over 10,000 fail attempts, to Qian Hongyan who became gold medal winner in different Paralympics competitions after losing both legs in an accident at 4 years old. Telling your kids these stories will help them understand that life doesn’t always happen as planned, but we always have the ability to change our mindset and to think of how we can deal with set-backs. 

List of real life heroes and what happened to them before they were successful:

​2. Start a gratitude journal

Our emotion typically respond to dramatic changes, but a lot of good things that are stable e.g. having lovely kids, good relationship with spouse or a stable job fade into the background. So what you can do is deliberately draw your attention to them.

When adversity strikes, gratitude for the things that are going right in your life helps put tragedy in perspective. What you can do is to help your kids draw attention to the positive things in their life that they may have taking for granted.

Get your kids to choose a notebook they love to start a gratitude journal. Ask them to name or write down few things they’re grateful for in the day before bedtime and review the journal with every month.

3.  Train the brain to ask 'Learners Questions'

The idea behind this game is we tend to ask 'emotional questions' like 'Why it happens to me?' or 'Who's to blame?' when negative incidents strike us.  These kinds of questions don't help a lot nor do they make us feel better.   So the main objective of this game is to train your kids to shift from 'Why' to 'How', from simply expressing negative emotions to thinking of solutions and next steps that move one forward. 

What you need:
- A list of incidents that may happen to your kids, from failing in an important exam to being bullied at school or to have to cancel a long awaited trip because someone in the family got sick. These are just examples and we suggest you to think of something that your kids can relate to.

- Learner questions on colorful papers , one question per sheet.  I use colorful paper to set anchor so that kids can retrieve these positive thinking approach more easily.  We have clear elaboration on what are anchors and how to use them to help us retrieve successful experience and feelings in our 'User Manual For The Brain' Program.


- A glass jar filled with learner question sheets.

Learner questions examples.

Fill the glass jar with colorful learner questions.

First, choose an incident from the incident list and ask your kids how they feel if the incident happens.  Acknowledge their feedback and suggest them to choose a question from the jar.  Repeat by answering 3 - 5 learner questions and observe the change it has made to how your kids think about the incident.  

The hand-picking of a question from the jar is actually helping to remind your kids to retrieve the same from the brain next time a real life set-back occurs.  These questions help them focus on the learning points, the possible solutions and the future.  It shows them they have the power to change how they feel, or to even change the situation by asking the right question.

List of learner questions:

  • What are your available choices?
  • What are the things you can change?
  • What is useful here?
  • If you can give one piece of advice to others regarding this, what advice would you give?
  • How would you get over this and move forward?
  • What can you do next?
  • How can you make yourself feel better about this?
  • How can you help?
  • What can you do to change this?
  • If you can change one thing, what would you change?

So start any of these activities now and help your kids to know they have the option to complain, or to make changes and improve. 

About the Author Tammy Seay

I believe our kids are the key to the future of the world and, as parents, we have a lot of influence while our children are still learning and growing. We set ourselves as our kids’ role models. Consciously and unconsciously, we pass on to them what we know, what we believe, and what we value. This is why partnering with parents in teaching life lessons and soft skills to get kids prepared for the world has become my key purpose in life. I hope that through my experience in teaching communications in university and in NLP training and coaching, I’ll be able to equip you with more tangible methods so that you can be your children’s life teacher, too!

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