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3 Techniques to Help Kids Build Emotional Resilience and Empathy

Childhood is not always a carefree time, as children face various challenges and traumas that can impact their emotional well-being. Children can learn resilience skills to help them manage stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. In addition to resilience, developing empathy is crucial for children to understand and connect with others' emotions and needs. 

Here are three techniques that can help kids build emotional resilience and empathy:

1. Seek Supportive Relationships

Building supportive relationships is essential for emotional resilience and empathy. Encourage children to identify and nurture positive connections with family, friends, and teachers. These relationships provide a sense of belonging, support, and understanding, which can help children navigate difficult situations and build emotional resilience.

Try the following exercises with your child:

Role-Playing Scenarios

Provide children with scenarios involving seeking support, such as feeling sad about a bad day at school or being nervous before a performance. Have them play different roles, like the person seeking support and the friend providing it. This visual activity helps children understand both sides of a supportive relationship and develop empathy. After each role-play, discuss how the interaction felt and what they could have done differently to make the support more effective.

Friendship Bracelet Workshop

Organize a friendship bracelet-making workshop where children can create bracelets for themselves and their friends. As they work on their bracelets, encourage them to talk about the qualities they value in a friend and the support they appreciate. This activity fosters creativity and provides a platform for children to openly express their feelings and preferences, strengthening their understanding of supportive relationships.

2. Practice Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

Mindfulness and self-compassion are powerful tools for building emotional resilience. Teach children techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, and compassionate self-talk. These practices can help children regulate emotions, reduce stress, and develop a positive mindset.

Here are three activities tailored for children to engage in these practices:

Mindful Nature Exploration

Take children on a nature walk or spend time outdoors. Encourage them to use their senses to experience the environment around them. Guide them to notice the colors, textures, and shapes of plants, the sounds of birds or rustling leaves, the feeling of the breeze, and even the scents in the air. Encourage them to focus on their breathing while observing nature. This activity helps children connect with the present moment and cultivates awareness of their surroundings.

Gratitude Journaling

Provide children with a notebook or journal and encourage them to create a gratitude journal. Each day, they can write down three things they are thankful for. This practice fosters a sense of appreciation and encourages them to focus on the positive aspects of their lives. It also promotes self-compassion by helping them recognize the good things about themselves and their experiences.

Compassionate Self-Talk Meditation

Guide children through simple meditation. Have them find a comfortable and quiet space to sit or lie down. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine sending kind and positive thoughts to different people, starting with themselves. You can use phrases like:

  • I am healthy.

  • I am safe.

  • I am worthy.

  • I am confident.

After sending these thoughts to themselves, guide them to send these wishes to a loved one, a friend, someone they may have difficulties with, and eventually to all beings. This meditation cultivates self-compassion and empathy for others.

3. Engage in Resilience-Building Activities

Building emotional resilience and empathy is an ongoing process. Parents, teachers, and caregivers play a crucial role in modeling and reinforcing these skills. By providing a supportive environment, acknowledging children's emotions, and allowing them to experience disappointment and failure, adults can help children develop the right skills to navigate life's challenges.

Various activities can help children develop emotional resilience and empathy. These activities allow children to develop a growth mindset, persevere through adversity, and cultivate compassion toward others. 

Here are a few activities you can complete with your child:

Create an Accomplishment Jar

Encourage children to write down their achievements, big or small, and place them in a jar. This activity helps children recognize their strengths and build self-confidence.

Make "Mistake" Art

Encourage children to embrace mistakes as opportunities for growth. Provide art supplies and invite them to create artwork celebrating mistakes and resilience[3].

Turn a Negative Into a Positive

Help children reframe negative experiences by finding positive aspects or lessons learned. This activity promotes resilience by teaching children to find silver linings in challenging situations.


Written by Brooke Lektorich

Education World Contributor

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