Building Emotional Resilience in the Early Years

Three children and educator in front of play kitchen

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We all know how valuable emotional resilience can be in navigating life. When it comes to shaping a solid sense of bouncing back, it starts from day one. Research shows that children who are introduced to challenges when they’re young turn into more resilient adults. While most research into resilience centres on adolescence, we know that building resilience in children aged 0-12 years may help to alleviate mental health issues in children and later in life.

Beyondblue discovered that children who are transparent with feelings, tackle failure early and lean toward positive thinking, are better geared to handle difficulties. By protecting children with bubble wrap, they don’t gain exposure to the gamut of learning that life throws them.

In honour of this month’s R U OK? Day, we explore how to support children to build emotional resilience.

In and Out

Emotional resilience is formed inside and out; in the realm of the child as an individual and their environment. Inside, we work on coping and social skills, self-regulation and self-confidence. Outside, we work on promoting good interactions, relationships and opportunities to dabble in beneficial risk-taking. We also promote free play, which presents plenty of opportunities to build resilience.

While we can, and do, work with children within our educational context, family plays a huge part. At home, the work continues through family relationships and connectedness, as well as learning how to take ownership of, and self-regulating, emotions.


The world around them is where children learn to push and pull. During their time in our Centres, we are their community, the place where they learn to mix and connect with peers, as well as form, solidify and grow caring relationships. We champion children in taking on daring tasks, encourage them to adapt and keep trying which builds autonomy and problem-solving skills.

We don’t speak for your child – we listen and ask questions about how the challenge makes them feel. Fostering empathy, we also work with them to establish how they can act as a supportive friend, as well as how to recognise one. We make sure we read stories about people who rise above difficulty and include a diverse collection of people.


We believe that children need to understand their context to flourish within it. Learning how to be autonomous and take responsibility for choices and actions, we talk to children about how they can plan for challenges. Thinking their way through social situations such as feeling outcast from a group of friends and knowing who to turn to help them with strategies is also important. We set up opportunities for children to practise problem-solving both in groups, and alone, as well as making confident decisions.


Learning how to take control of feelings can be mastered by reflection. That’s why we focus on acknowledging their experiences in the moment; as an example, when they’re sad, we tell them we can see they’re feeling sad, and it’s okay to cry. This helps children develop the language around both their own and others’ feelings. We support each child in our care to foster good thinking which can help them respond to situations with positive self-talk, compassion and optimism. Showing how to get ready for things that make them nervous and learning to identify what worked in hindsight can be invaluable. We ask open-ended questions and make sure we never speak for them.

Beyondblue has some great information for children aged 1-5.

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