More and more we find ourselves in conversations about children with anxiety or worry.  This happens for parents, teachers, and therapists… it is a common topic of discussion and I am a big believer that we don’t need to think of anxiety in children as a disorder or a negative.  What we do need to do is provide children and families with strategies for managing the anxiety when it starts to interfere with how children go about their day. One of the greatest strategies is building resilience.

Recently I went to a talk by Maggie Dent – a well-known educator in childhood development.  Maggie talked about building resilience in children and how it can foster coping skills in children in our modern world.  Resilience is our ability to bounce back after a stressful or negative event, and those with increased resilience often have increased self-esteem, have a positive outlook, and the capacity to keep trying and problem solve.  Sounds pretty good to me!  So how is resilience fostered in children?

You could say that it is not something you just pick up one day and improve on.  It takes time to nurture.  There are 10 building blocks for children aged 0-12 years that Maggie Dent talks about from her years of research and working with children.  These are:

  1. Having a positive healthy pregnancy – aiming for feeling less stressed when pregnant
  2. Having good nutrition for you and the family – ensuring children have a balanced healthy diet
  3. Providing safe, nurturing care within the circle of family
  4. Plenty of play – can be with a cardboard box, making a newspaper hat. Play does not have to be an expensive toy and we encourage time off screens during play.
  5. Building life skills, such as tying shoe laces, going to the toilet, getting dressed
  6. Having meaningful involvement with positive adults, such as reading, cooking, and creating of memories together.
  7. Setting clear boundaries, for example bed time
  8. Absence of stress, which could be as simple as turning off the news when children are around, or leaving adult discussions about a particular event until children are in bed
  9. Self mastery – being able to work something out – such as riding a bike, or doing a puzzle
  10. Strengthening the spirit – as Maggie puts it “Childhood is meant to be full of chaos, endless play, spontaneity, laughter and moments of wonder and awe. Let your inner child come out and play before they become teenagers, when they may only see you as an embarrassment. Consciously create the magic moments that build delight and lightness — turn the screens off, play music, share meals and tell jokes: anything that builds the sense of belonging, being valued and noticed” (

Building resilience is important.  We need to have increased resilience as adults, and learning how to be resilient as a child is a great platform for this. Maggie's website is a wealth of information 

In occupational therapy here, we can assist with developing strategies that are individual to your child and your family to build resilience. We often help people who have difficulties managing anxiety, and self-esteem, particularly when this affects problem solving, enjoyment in daily life, the ability to master life skills and engage in the roles children have – such as friend, or student.  If you have a child that is struggling with anxiety, we are here to help. 

Amy Geach, Occupational Therapist