Ways to Foster Children’s Resilience in The New School Year

Ask the Experts by Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW

Q: My children will be dealing with many changes in the upcoming school year.  How can I support them in navigating these changes and foster their resilience?

A: What a healthy way to think about change.  I love that you are looking at it as an opportunity for growth rather than something to protect your children from.  Children take their cues about new situations from those they trust, and when parents are organized around their kids’ strengths, it is a clear signal that you think they can handle the challenges.

Resilience is not finite, and it can be strengthened throughout childhood.  There are a few key ways to foster children’s resilience with each new school year.

  • Build a sense of competency and discourage perfectionism.  Confidence is developed from experiences.  Encourage your children to take healthy risks, try new things, make mistakes and embrace change.  Reinforce they can do it imperfectly.  Perfection undermines resilience, leaving no margin for error.  Remind children that success is defined by the process, not just the outcome.
  • Encourage a Growth Mindset.  Reinforce how change is an opportunity for growth, learning a new skill set, or developing new strengths.  A growth mindset reinforces potential – and competence develops by seeking out new opportunities and experiences.
  • Let them know you trust their capacity to cope. Allowing children to struggle or make mistakes is challenging.  But when we rush to protect them, we deprive them of the opportunity to develop critical skills.  If they don’t experience setbacks, they don’t learn how to recover.  Shielding children from hardship is not parenting from a position of respect.  Allowing kids to stumble or make mistakes nurtures their resilience rather than their fragility.

Kids often have a far greater capacity to navigate change than we give them credit for.  Encouraging them to embrace new experiences helps foster children who take healthy risks, aren’t threatened by change, recover emotionally and are solution focused.

Mary Beth Garvey, LMSW, is a clinical therapist who works with children, adolescents and adults.  She is in private practice in Grosse Pointe and can be reached at 313.408.2180 or mbgarvey@hotmail.com

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