Life's Ups and Downs

Main points:

  • Every day your child is experiencing new demands and challenges.
  • To deal with these demands, you child needs resilience.
  • You can help develop resilience to life's ups and downs in your child.


As the end of Term 1 approaches, your child may be becoming quite tired from going to school every day. You may even be observing some different behaviour from your child. For example, your child could be happy one moment, unhappy the next. One day they may tell you everything that happened at school and the next day they may not talk at all, even when you ask direct open questions.

What’s happening is normal.

Every day your child is experiencing new demands and challenges. Dealing effectively with whatever they encounter on a day-to-day basis, and to be happy and successful in school and satisfied with their lives, your child needs inner strength. We call this resilience.
Resilient children have learned to set realistic goals and expectations. They have developed the ability to solve problems and make decisions and are more likely to view mistakes and obstacles as challenges rather than as things to avoid.
Resilient children are aware of their weaknesses but they also recognise their strong points. They have developed effective interpersonal skills with peers and adults and seek help and support in appropriate ways. 
Each child travels through life on a unique road that is shaped by a variety of factors, including their temperament, educational experiences, family environment and values.

What you can do

So, what can you do to help your child through the ups and downs of daily life? Here are a few hints:

  • Be empathetic. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. Empathy does not mean that you agree with everything your child does, but rather that you attempt to understand their point of view. Continue to maintain and encourage their already existing relationships with other adults, be they grandparents, aunts or uncles or family friends. This will help your child feel loved and supported and will provide them with a network of people to help them work through the changes they are experiencing.
  • As much as possible, continue to do the same things as you always have with your child. Having a time that is ‘theirs’ where you both do something special together – like reading a story before bed – is very important and goes a long way towards your child adjusting to and coping with the ups and downs of everyday life.
  • Change negative statements. Every parent can remember when they repeatedly told or nagged their child to do or not do something with little, if any, positive response by their child. If something you have said or done for a reasonable amount of time does not work, then you need to change your approach if your child is to change theirs. This does not imply ‘giving in to’ or ‘spoiling’ your child. Rather it helps to teach your child that there are alternative ways of solving problems. A good tip is to reword your response into saying ‘yes’. For example, ‘yes, you can go out to play once we finish this book’. When you do say ‘no’, mean it.
  • Listen to your child as they talk about how they feel, especially when things are not going so well. Let your child know you have heard what they’ve said and talk to them about ways of dealing with or solving their problem. This will help your child understand that they are valued and that you are taking their feelings seriously.
  • Teach your child to solve problems and make decisions. Resilient children recognise problems, consider different solutions, attempt what they judge to be the most appropriate solutions and learn from the outcome. To reinforce this approach, try to avoid always telling your child what to do. Instead, you can try to get them to think about possible solutions themselves.
  • Help your child recognise that mistakes are experiences from which to learn. Resilient children tend to view mistakes as opportunities instead of failures. Parents need to set realistic expectations and emphasise that mistakes are not only accepted, but anticipated.
  • No-one is perfect and it isn’t always possible to be the best that you can be. When this happens, explaining to your child that you made a mistake will let them see that you also learn from your mistakes and that you own up to the things you’ve done wrong. These are lessons that will hopefully stay with your child for the rest of their lives.

Related links

  • Building Resilience – information about the Department’s model to developing social and emotional learning skills and enhancing resilience.
  • School Age Connecting and Communicating – Raising Children Network’s articles on connecting with your child, understanding feelings, communicating with children and coping with trauma.
  • School Age Behaviour – Raising Children Network’s articles on understanding behaviour, discipline, school issues and friends and siblings.
  • Parentline on 13 22 89 – a statewide telephone counselling service for parents and carers of children aged from birth to eighteen years.
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 – a free, confidential and anonymous, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25.
  • Lifeline on 131 114 – a 24 hour telephone counselling service that provides care in times of crisis.