All posts by pathwaystrust

7 secrets to raising a resilient child

growing up   

 As we have written previously, resiliency and social emotional learning are skills a child learns so that they learn how to cope with challenges, and know that no matter what problems they face they will be able to find a solution either by themselves or through cooperation with other people. They also learn the skills to help other people to face their challenges.

While teachers and other professionals play a very important role in helping children develop these skills, the most valuable social emotional teacher a child will ever have is their own parents. In this article we have 7 secrets parents can use to build resiliency in their children. Admittedly cutting the list down to 7 secrets was very challenging, but we have selected our 7 favourite tips.

1.     Be a role model


This has to be our most important tip. Most parents learn the truth of this the first time they drop a swear word in front of their kid only to hear it mirrored back them. Our children learn most deeply from the model that we provide them. If we want our children

to be resilient and happy then we must also learn these skills ourselves.

Below are just a few links on social and emotional learning for adults that we recommend.

[some links on resilience in adults

2.     Empathy & Respect

Life would be so much easier if kids would just do what they are told to do? However kids are like everyone else, they have their own needs, feelings and ideas. Showing empathy and understanding about these to our kids has many benefits.

First of all, we will have a better understanding of why they want or don’t want to do something and it makes it easier to find ways to motivate them to do everything from completing homework to eating healthy food.

Even young kids like to be understood and respected. Empathy isn’t about caving in to what they want. If they ask for ice cream for breakfast you either say “Stop being childish and eat your porridge” or we can instead respond “I love ice cream too, but it is not a good food for breakfast, we can go for ice cream after school.” The latter obviously respects the fact that they like ice cream and shows that you feel the same way.

Finally by showing empathy and understanding to them you are providing a wonderful role model for your kids. If children can learn to show empathy and respect to everyone they have learnt a very valuable life skill.

3.     Let your child make decisions and even rules

Mark and Sarah are running late again and it looks like they are going to have another battle with their son Aaron to get him dressed. He is refusing to put on a shirt and they are at their wits end to make him wear the one they laid out for him. Then Mark remember a little trick he was taught. He asks Aaron to choose a shirt he likes. It is so much easier to get Aaron to put on his favourite shirt once he has chosen it.

Part of growing up is having increasingly more control of your life. As your children grow give them more opportunities to decide. By asking them to make choices you are listening to them, letting them participate and contribute as well helping them become better decision makers. As your children learn to choose they learn to make the right choices and can face problems because they will see problems as choices.

4.     Solving problems

rubiks cube

There is still one thing that sticks in my mind from when I was in primary school. It was a day when I had a huge and insurmountable problem, my shoelaces had become untied and I didn’t know how to tie them up. The problems children face are huge to them but minor to us. While it is always quickest to solve our children’s problems for them, it better for them to teach them how to solve some of them themselves and it gives to children the skills to face challenges.

Part of growing up is learning to solve problem. This is always difficult for parents because they have to go through a constant transition of doing things for their children, to showing and helping them to solve problems, to leaving them to solve the problems themselves.

What children need to learn more than anything else are not solutions to problems but problem solving technique, such as figuring out what the problem really is, brainstorming solutions and then later thinking back to see if it solved the problem.

For my childhood shoelace challenge I have a vivid memory of my teacher drying my tears, tying my laces for me and then going how and asking my parents how to tie my own laces.

5.     The experience of mastery


My second favourite quote from The Simpsons TV show is “If something is hard to do then it is not worth doing.” This is a quote best said with a sage Homer Simpson voice, because it makes it really funny. It is such a dysfunctional philosophy yet it is easy for us to learn to give up when something is even a little hard.

This is why learning to master something difficult is such an incredibly important part of developing resiliency. Mastery is a process of achieving goals you are passionate about by hard work, problem solving and recovering from setbacks and failures. This could be everything from learning drawing, mastering basketball jump shots or learning how to cook a something. These skills translate into techniques for dealing with school projects and personal relationships and then goes on to skills used throughout the rest of your life. Many people who have achieved as an adult were showing the same commitment in even their younger years at school.

6.     Teach kids to treat mistakes as learning experiences

A famous Olympic skier when he was preparing for his first Olympics started with a new coach who watched him do a slalom ski run. The coach then asked the skier, “Do you know what you did wrong?” when the skier couldn’t think of anything he did wrong, the coach said “You didn’t fall over.”

You see the skier wasn’t thinking his goal was to not fall over, however it is only important not to fall over during a competition. In training he should have been falling over all the time so he could learn how far he can push the limit and improve.

Making mistakes are vital part of learning. When we become scared of making mistakes we are unlikely to do our best and when we do make the inevitable mistakes we will give up. The resilient child learns to treat mistakes as a learning experience and understands that no set back is permanent.

7.     Communication, Team work and cooperation


I once gave a group of primary school students a creative problem solving task; the egg drop problem. Groups are given a bunch of drinking straws and an egg and had to find a way to build a little capsule to put the egg in and drop it from a height without the egg breaking. I had tried this task with adult learners on several occasions and I thought I would give an easier version to a group of kids I was filling in with for a summer schoo. I thought it would be fun and l wanted to see how they would handle the problem.

The first thing they did was start trying to work individually as this was how all other activities had been previously done. It only took one phrase, “Work as a team” for them to change their model of social cooperation. If only the adults could do that so easily.

As we grow older we become more fixed in the way we cooperate and participate, often to the detriment of the groups that we work with. This goes far beyond just team work, we need to learn skills in leadership, cooperation,  creativity and communication, just to name a few.

Resiliency and social emotional learning is both individual and social. The more chance your children have to participate in a range of different social models the better prepared they will be to respond to different social situations resiliently.

By the way, I think the kids did better at solving the egg drop problem that the adults and certainly worked better in teams when prompted to do so.

Remember Resiliency is something that is built over time as your child grows up and is a skill that helps them learn and live better throughout their entire life. This is list if only a small number of the many skills for life you as parents will impart to your children.

Some useful links

Can Do Kids:

7 Secrets to Raising a Happy Child:

The Secret of Raising a Resilient Child:

Building Social And Emotional Skills In Elementary Students: Ninja Mastery Or Emotional Management:



Friends: Free for schools that qualify

New-Fun-Friends-Logonew  Of course the people at Pathways to Resilience will always be happy to be your friends but what we are talking about is the Friends program developed by internationally respected University of Queensland academic Professor Paula Barret.

The Friends program includes Fun Friends, Friends For Life and My Friends and is used and recognised around the world. Together these series of books teach social and emotional competence and resilience for ages 4-17. The program includes student books, teacher resources as well as training and support, including online delivery of the training for regional, remote and rural schools.

Does your school qualify for free resources?

We would like to remind schools in Queensland that they may qualify for free resources if they are in communities that meet any of following criteria:

  • Regional, Rural & Remote
  •  Indigenous
  • Disadvantaged
  •  Drought and Disaster Affected 

This offer is limited while our stocks of free books lasts

Contact us to find out if you qualify for the free resources or just talk to us more about these and other programs in general.

Learn more about the Friends program

Puppets: Social & Emotional Learning Role Models

puppiesThe best thing about using puppets in the classroom is the reaction from the students when you bring one out. Puppets quickly focus attention and get the delight of the kids. Beyond that they are wonderful teaching tools which we use all the time for social and emotional learning. When a puppet comes into a classroom the whole dynamics of teacher and students change. Students interact and respond to the puppet directly and the teacher can take a back seat.

Here are some suggestions on how facilitators can make use of puppets in the classroom.

Modelling behaviour

It is interesting the way children respond to puppets. They understand that they are not real but at the same time attribute to them genuine feelings and expect them to conform to social norms. This means that puppets are a great way to model both appropriate and inappropriate behaviour in a way an adult or another child couldn’t. Children will feel happy about making suggestions and corrections to a puppets behaviour while they would not feel comfortable about doing this with a real person.

Sharing feelings

Children often have a lot of difficulty expressing their feelings – especially negative ones – to adults. When they get to interact with a puppet this changes and they feel very comfortable and will often open up about personal and friendship problems as well as other feelings. If the puppet has the same problems they do, or feel the same way they do, then they feel an affinity to the puppet.

Role Plays

Puppets are also a great way to actively explore situations with children and create scenarios, such as where one puppet needs help or is upset. The children can respond by suggesting what the others puppets should do to respond. It gives them lots of ideas for how to respond to their friends and how they can act outside of the classroom.

Puppets from Pathways

Puppets are a great teaching tool and are a wonderful and fun way to explore social and emotional learning with younger children. We use the cuddly, huggable Folkmanis puppets. They are available from the trust; the  Brave Brown is $30 and Maltese is $35.

puppies box

Online Webinars Can Benefit Everyone!

onlineAt Pathways to Resilience Trust we believe that great teachers are those who are always looking to improve and develop their teaching skills. It is important to be able provide support, training and professional development to them to help them to continually improve as teachers.

For teachers there is the frustration of trying to attend professional development programs around class schedules and personal commitments. Lack of training and support for teachers and facilitators can have a negative impact on even the best programs.

For regional, rural and remote schools it is even more frustrating for teachers. As Jo Jones Laifoo from Gordonvale State School has said “Working in regional Queensland has its benefits – beautiful scenery and great style but it can be professionally isolating.”

This is why Pathways to Resilience provides both face-to-face and online training sessions. For anyone who has never participated in an online webinar – it is an interactive online group meeting. The typical webinar lets everyone see and hear the facilitator, along with being able to view whatever is on facilitator’s screen and the facilitator can share videos and PowerPoints. People can interact through voice, video and also type responses if they don’t have access to a computer with a microphone (or are feeling shy).

All you need is a computer, Internet Connection and ideally a video camera and microphone. You don’t need to install anything special on your computer, just connect 5-10 minutes prior to a session so your computer can automatically download and run the webinar client.

The feedback from these sessions has been fantastic. Gail Barker from North Lakes State College said “As the college facilitator I have been very impressed with the organisation of the training delivery.” The Gordonvale State School’s principal committed the entire school the Fun Friends and Friends for Life programs because “…staff can access training and resources [online]…”

To learn more about our training schedule including online and face-to-face training visit our training and development page

(Anne Turnbull)

Using Story Books to Promote Children’s Resilience

When we think about our childhood among many of our fondest memories are often books that we read or were read to us. This should not be surprising as story telling is a universal human feature that crosses cultures and spans human history. While often entertaining, stories have always existed to teach lessons.

story books

Children’s story books are an easily accessible set of tools we can use to help children to develop resiliency abilities and become more accurate and flexible thinkers. Also let’s face it, these books also help us when we find ourselves having to tackle the hard topics with our own children or the children that we work with.

By the age of three children are actively trying to make sense of the thing that are happening to around them and to them. Without guidance and help they often come to conclusions that are both inaccurate and damaging. If their parents are fighting they might come to the conclusion that is “cuz’ I’m a bad boy.” or when someone doesn’t want to play they might think it is because “she doesn’t like me anymore, she thinks I’m stupid.”

When children establish such negative beliefs and non-resilient thinking patterns this can result in a loss of self-worth along with other psychological and behavioural problems. Attempting to address these issues directly however is difficult as many children will not be able to clearly state the problem and either shrug their shoulders or say “I don’t know”. What is more, many of the topics and issues teachers and parents might find themselves uncomfortable talking about.

Children’s storybooks

  • Validate children’s experiences
  • Broaden their perspective
  • Generate positive solutions to everyday problems
  • Help children articulate their beliefs and imagine positive outcomes for the challenges they face
  • Promote accurate and flexible thinking by challenging children’s assumptions and biases.
  • Are an effective means to explore diversity and educate about differences. They are a great inclusionary tool.
  • Help children articulate their beliefs and imagine positive outcomes for the challenges they face.

Luckily for us story and picture books are a wonderful, interactive and pleasurable way to address these topics both indirectly and as a way to discuss the issues more directly. Children love listening to stories. Good stories offer multiple layers for learning and discussion – opportunities for readers and listeners alike to validate their experience, broaden their perspective, and generate positive solutions to everyday problems and provide a safe way to help children articulate their beliefs and imagine positive outcomes for the challenges they face. Story books can provide children with concrete examples of how accurate and flexible thinking makes a positive difference in the way a character handles adversity.

When we look at the core resiliency skills supported by research and the literature we see that story books can help children develop many of these. For example, story books increase the capacity to value and identify with one’s own culture and at the same time value the culture of others, a key resiliency skill. We can’t ignore that stories stimulate imagination of creative play, another critical ability associated with resilience in harsh circumstances.

Igniting children’ imagination with stories develops these key skills and facilitates communication. Children love to make up their own stories based on pictures in storybooks. We can say, “Let’s make up a story about the people in this picture.” When teachers use this technique, they are surprised and fascinated with children’s enthusiastic and creative responses. As children express their ideas about why the characters in the picture act in certain ways, teachers report gaining valuable insight into their beliefs about the world and this, in turn, helps them better understand children’s feelings and behaviour.

The long term impact of stories on children’s development can be attested to by adults who have triumphed over severe childhood adversity. These people often refer to literature as “an influential and satisfying companion in their childhood, because they felt the author was writing to them personally.”

Learn more about using children’s books to develop resiliency skills