Next time your child is furrowing their brow and staring off into space, ask them whether they're thinking dolphin or shark thoughts. That's the advice from resilience specialist Andrew Fuller on helping your child to recognise the positive or negative approaches they may be taking on life issues.
"Dolphin thinking can help you out and shark thinking can eat you up. It doesn't matter how old your kids are, they can still understand it," Andrew says.
"The things that are most important are teaching children what a good life is, how to live life well, how to extract pleasure out of things and how to turn things around when they're tough," he says.
Top tips on building resilience:
- Teach your child to experience success by supporting them in something they like doing whether it's a sporting, academic or artistic endeavour.
- Help them develop skills to be successful at school, such as good concentration and memory by playing card games and puzzles.
- Play games with your child by predicting what sort of day a person walking down the street may have had. Being able to read people's emotions is powerfully predictive of how well children can get on with people at school.
- Be aware of the 'yuk and yum' factor - some things will make your child feel good and other things will make them feel bad. The idea is for them to gather things around them that cheer them up if they've had a bad day.
- Keep things in perspective - explain to a grumpy child their circumstances are not the worst possible, and that others have been through similar situations. Walk beside them as they handle the situation. This helps them to build hope and the belief they can handle problems when they come up.
Skills in resilience are promoted in NSW Public Schools because through them children fare well in life. Research shows children with good resilience perform better at school and are less susceptible to risky behaviour, particularly as they enter the teenage years.
The education department's principal psychologist, Ron Balderston, describes resilience as a shock absorber for the potholes of life.
"Resilient children know how to cope and have developed skills that enable them to flex so they can manage life's blows when they happen without them getting too down, stuck on ways that aren't helping or giving up," Ron says.