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Resilience involves thoughts, feelings and behaviours, so rather than an inherent trait, it is more like a skill that can be developed and practised by all of us. Resilience is a major factor in maintaining good mental health and there are several factors that can affect a child’s ability to be resilient. Dr Gill Talbot, Wellbeing Guardian @ Pennthorpe
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Early attachments

Children usually form a secure attachment style if caregivers are emotionally available and attuned to their communication as an infant; they trust that their needs are usually met and they learn to trust the relationship and their environment. As children become older this is displayed as confidence and resilience.

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Self Belief

Also referred to as self-efficacy, this is the degree to which a child believes they can set a goal and achieve it. A child that keeps going in the face of challenges has a high self-efficacy. Self-efficacy determines how a child feels about themselves, their motivation and how they respond to different challenges. Self-efficacy is formed in childhood and continues to grow throughout our life as we acquire new skills and experiences.


Promoting Self-Efficacy

Several decades ago, psychologist Albert Bandura researched factors that promote self-efficacy and identified four major factors:

  1. Mastery experiences – performing a task successfully
  2. Social modelling – witnessing other people, who you see as similar to yourself, accomplishing a goal
  3. Verbal persuasion – verbal encouragement from others: e.g. “you can do it!”
  4. Psychological responses our emotional response to a given situation.


Children with high self-efficacy do not tend to see challenges as a threat. This leaves room for them to enjoy and develop deeper interest in tasks they pursue. Difficulty and failure doesn’t necessarily mean defeat. Instead they are more likely to dig deep and look for solutions.

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Value yourself

Children with high self esteem tend to be more confident of their abilities and have more trust in their decision making.  They may feel more motivated to try new things because they believe they can achieve goals and are less afraid of failing. They have more confidence of being loved and valued for themselves (not just for what they can do) and often have a better understanding of their own needs with better ability to express their needs and be assertive.

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Sense of self

Having a clear sense of identity is essentially viewing yourself, and your values, in a consistent way, regardless of the situation or perception of other people’s opinions. It allows you more easily to try new things and adapt to situations.  Ways for a child to strengthen their sense of identity may include writing in a diary, developing healthy pursuits/activities that they enjoy, or that they might like to learn more about, or even just thinking about when they felt happiest and what makes them feel happy.

Incorporating self-efficacy into life

You can work with your child to incorporate Bandura’s sources of self-efficacy into their life.

  • Encourage your child to acknowledge their successes.
  • Encourage them to observe their peers’ successes (without comparing), as seeing others put in effort and succeeding can increase their belief in their own ability to succeed.
  • Give positive feedback and encouragement.
  • Work with them to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings in stressful or challenging situations and to practice positive self-talk.
  • Reflect with them on their own personal strengths and how they have coped with previous challenges.

Mastery experiences are an effective way of building self-efficacy. This can include setting achievable goals that stretch (but not overwhelm) your child. You can build self-esteem in your child by demonstrating (through words and actions) that you love and value them for who they are (not just for what they can do or achieve) and being mindful of criticism. Being part of a group (e.g. a committee or club) or playing a part in the wider community can help your child find wider meaning in their life, so supporting these positive relationships for your child can give them a meaningful sense of belonging, purpose and identity. Help your child find an activity or pursuit that they enjoy doing to increase their sense of identity. This can increase resilience and make it easier for a child to branch out and try other new things.

Recommended books to support resilience

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9 ways to a resilient child (2019) by Justin Coulson - recommended for parents

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Bibbit Jumps (2020) by Bei Lynn - recommended for children (ages 4-7)

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Be Resilient! (2022) activity book by Dr Sharie Coombes & Katie Abey - recommended for children (ages 7-11)

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You are Awesome (2018) by Matthew Syed - recommended for children (ages 9-12)