Helping children bounce back … and forward, too

Nothing brings out the tiger instinct in parents more than seeing their child disappointed, angry, upset, or hurt. Parents want to fix the situation and make it all better. But is that really preparing a child to deal with the ups and downs of life?

Your child comes home from school and tells you that his teacher gave him a “C” on the project he spent days creating. Your daughter gets the supporting role, not the lead she auditioned for, in a play. Your child is angry that his friend borrowed a video game and didn’t give it back. 

Protecting them or jumping in to resolve their problems does little to help children build resiliency. It also inhibits learning how to advocate for themselves, deal with feelings positively, or gain insight into working through tough times.

Rather than running to the rescue, here are some things that parents can try first:

  • Ask your child how s/he feels about the situation before you share how it makes you feel.
  • Show empathy by using feeling words. For example, you might say something like, “You seem disappointed.” This opens the door for more conversation.
  • Help your child problem solve possible solutions: “Let’s think of some things you can do to resolve this.”
  • Ask your child what he would like you to do. Don’t assume she wants you to do anything. She may just want you to listen and nothing more.
  • Develop a game plan. Specifically decide what your child will do and by when. Check if she needs any support from you in order to accomplish the action step such as a ride home from rehearsal if she stays late to talk with the director.
  • Schedule follow-up meetings where you can discuss how actions are—or are not—working. Children often need guidance and coaching to complete the steps to problem resolution—such as talking with a teacher. Follow-up also enables you to assess how well your child manages self-advocacy and where you need to provide more support.
  • Finally, step in when there is no resolution, if things get worse, or if your child asks you to get involved.

After addressing the issue, although it may not have the outcome that you or your child wants, there is an excellent opportunity to review with your child how he or she worked through the problem:

  • Notice and recognize his efforts.
  • Empathize with her feelings.
  • Point out that he can use the skills again in future situations.
  • Let her know that you are always there for her in whatever way she needs you. 

The ability to stand up for themselves is a tool that children can carry with them for life. It not only builds resilience, or the ability to bounce back; it also teaches how to grow and “bounce forward."


Contact Information

Denise Continenza
  • Extension Educator, Food, Families & Health
Phone: 610-391-9840