Superman standing with speech bubble next to him

10 Ways to Build a Resilient Child Who Can Survive at School

Written by Samantha Griebenow

Let’s be honest. School, today, is pretty much comparable to surviving a war.

Children of this modern age are constantly facing the heavy artillery of the new social norms – and they don’t know how to deal with it. It is only going to become an internal World War 3 if they don’t possess resilient armour.

Being resilient means that you know how to cope when you are faced with obstacles; that no matter what the circumstances, you will push past your limits to succeed. Resilience is very often defined as simply having emotional strength. It is also a very prevalent issue in society – children are seemingly not as resilient as they used to be.

Lacking resilience can, and will, manifest itself in everyday life. And where does a child spend most of his or her everyday life? School. A child who is not resilient tends to perceive any stressful event as incredibly traumatic. On the other hand, a child who uses resilience will see stressful events as learning opportunities.  Stress can never be avoided, so finding a resilient way to deal with it is imperative.

As an educator, I can immediately identify a learner who is not resilient. These learners cannot cope independently, show initiative or think critically. The major catch – those are the three life lessons for surviving ‘The Battle of the Classroom’. Just last week, a learner approached me and stated, ‘In an exam, the questions are not the same as the ones in our textbooks; how then are we supposed to know what to answer?’ Simple – apply your resilience to understanding and developing your own thoughts, based on your acquired knowledge.

South African CAPS Worksheets

A resilient learner (and this actually comes directly from a group of learners I see as resilient) is defined by these characteristics:

  • Not giving up too easily.
  • Hard-working.
  • Eager and enthusiastic.
  • Flexible.
  • Manages time effectively.
  • Persistent and determined.
  • Optimistic and passionate.
  • Honest.
  • Problem-solver.

These traits need not be inherent; being resilient can become a strength to a child who might not possess it naturally. The bottom line – being resilient is the arsenal your child needs to fire those academic shots. Without this resilient armour, learners will be left vulnerable and they will decrease their effort as an attempt to protect themselves. 

Fostering resilience will ensure that your child is willing to learn, able to accept help and feedback, persevere when a concept is not easy to grasp and place in as much effort as possible. This means that resilient children are always going to work towards goals and not rest on their laurels – or on their computers constantly playing Fortnite.

Resilience Diagram

So what can you tell your child to foster new levels, or a completely new vision, of resilience in their lives? The tips below are by no means a militant checklist, but these shrapnels of advice do come straight from teachers (I should know; I am one). Encourage your child to live out these principles and make it habitual. Not only will your child begin to succeed, but learn how to pick up and move on after a setback.

CAPS Practice Exams and Worksheets

Face your failures

Keep perspective – failure is essential to learn. Let your child know that by failing, you learn what not to do. Failure is honestly not the end of the road. It is the start of a better understanding and an opportunity to grow. It might sound a little ‘quote of the day’, but failure is an obstacle; obstacles are meant to be overcome. Resilient learners will not stop trying simply because a stumbling block was placed in front of them. Instead, they will now be able to identify what they don’t know and fix the problem. 

South African CAPS Revision Tool

Practice makes perfect

It surprises me when learners think that one attempt should ensure success. There’s a preconceived notion that ‘clever’ kids just ‘get it’. This is not true. If a skill is not practised, it will never develop to its full potential. This is why YOUR CHILD MUST DO HOMEWORK. Homework is the opportunity to practise, practise, practise. It also allows learners to realise where they may still need extra explanations for understanding.  Encourage them to realise where more help is needed before writing an exam, so that there is still an opportunity to ask for assistance (WorksheetCloud is a great way to do this! Our all-in-one revision and studying tool helps children identify learning gaps and fill them. Try it out here!). But, don’t let your child wait for homework. If no specific task has been allocated, ensure that they consolidate and read over the day’s work and notes.

South African CAPS Revision Tool

Find a mentor

No-one likes to do things alone. Help your child find someone who is willing to develop him or her on the journey to resilience. This could be a teacher, you as a parent, an older sibling, a guidance counsellor or even a peer. If children surround themselves with these like-minded individuals, it will keep them on track and accountable. It also means that they can forge social connections while gaining life-skills. No man is an island, and no resilient learner hides in the shadows.

Lady holding up marker to white board

Set goals

The key to resilience is purpose. If your child is trying to work towards something, it means that they will always move forward. Motivate your child to set a goal at the start of the year for an overall percentage; however, use micro-goals each term as steps toward achievement. These smaller goals will allow your child to remain realistic and work consistently. Get your child to understand that if you aim for nothing, you will miss everything.

Stationery spilled out accross a desk

Accept change

There is not an individual on this earth who can avoid change. It is inevitable. The only constant in this world is change. A resilient learner adapts quickly and sources opportunities to deal with change. This could be an exam timetable change, a new teacher or even a classroom space. Motivate your child to see change as a benefit – maybe something new can be gained that would never have been learned otherwise.

Make an effort

We live in an age where children are too used to being rewarded for participation or attendance. This is a difficult reality. A resilient learner does not expect to be praised for something that is expected. A resilient learner understands that in order to achieve, EFFORT is key. Effort is defined as vigorous and determined action – it means that an intensity in what you do is required. Instill in your child the belief that you reap what you sow; plant seeds of effort and watch your success grow.

Make Things Happen

Problem solve

Not a day goes by when we aren’t faced with some type of challenge (note how I say ‘challenge’ and not ‘problem’). It might be opening the peanut butter jar in the morning or passing a Maths exam, but either way there is a solution. If your child works at solving an issue rather than sitting back and moaning about it, then he or she is using resilience. Instruct that your child listens to the Maths teacher, does Maths homework, attends an extra Math class and studies – these are solutions of which we are fully aware; yet sometimes we take the easy way out and rather complain. By the way, if you place said impossible-to-open peanut butter jar under a tap of running, hot water – your challenge is over.

CAPS Practice Exams

Stay positive

A positive attitude is a coping mechanism. It brings optimism into one’s life and eliminates stress and negativity to a large extent. Positive thinking literally makes you healthier. Incorporate this value into the life of your child; it will mean that they view their tasks at school as accessible and that they take on the process in a way that keeps them feeling at ease. Stress becomes manageable when they do not allow a space for negativity, but rather motivation. As  the singer, Sia, says, ‘You’re never fully dressed without a smile’.

Celebrate your successes

When your child reaches a goal, celebrate! It will make them look forward to reaching the next one. Allow your child to eat some cake, go to the movies with a friend, post their success story on Instagram or take a photo and send it to Granny! Whatever you do, allow your child the space to feel good about success. Celebrating increases morale and will motivate your child to strive for even more.

South African CAPS Revision Tool


At the end of the day, ask that your son or daughter reflect on how their actions have made them more resilient or how they can become even more resilient. Being aware of what you do and why you do it will help you to gain insight about yourself and your future responses to situations – and you want your child to understand this perspective. Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

To sum up resilience in a word: ‘Try’. And if all else fails, remember to inspire your child with this mantra: The comeback is always greater than the setback. 

I’m very interested to hear how you help your child build resilience. Post your comments, suggestions and questions below. I personally read and answer every comment.

The Author - Samantha Griebenow

WorksheetCloud is the most exciting way to study for exams and tests!

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  1. cyril

    very interesting and helpful. just what a working parent needs.

    • Ross Frank

      Hi Cyril! Thanks for your comment! We’re so glad that you found our blog useful! Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

      Ross ?

    • Thandaza

      Thank you so much, this is so much helpful and have gained more insight.

      • Ross Frank

        Hi Thandaza! Thank you so much for your comment! We’re so glad that you’re finding our worksheets useful! Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

        Ross 🙂

  2. jacqualine

    thank you for this i am batteling with my son grade 4 to focus while im trying to teach him his learning so we both end up getting frustrated i will certainly look for ways for gim to become more resiliant

    • Ross Frank

      Hi Jacqualine! Thanks for your comment! I completely understand your concern. I have a suggestion that you could maybe try, as well as a few very useful blog articles for you to have a look through when you have time.

      When you make use of these worksheets, my suggestion would be to first start helping by completing an open book worksheet (doing the worksheet with their school books next to them, which they can refer to for answers), then you can mark their work together. This will help them to draw connections from the work in their textbook to the written answers they gives. Marking it together will help build their confidence and they will feel supported (try to make a big deal of the answers they got correct).

      Then they should complete the worksheet again, but this time with no books and no help. Once completed they can either mark it alone, or you can mark it together again. Maybe make it a bit of a competition, where for every correct answer they get 5 minutes of T.V time (or any activity he loves). Incentives work like a charm! This will help to pinpoint the specific areas of that topic that require further study. Talk with them about the questions they got wrong and look for the correct answers or explanations in his school books. They can then read through the work again and then attempt the worksheet a third time.

      All three attempts don’t have to be done in one day, you can spread them out, depending on his concentration ability and extra mural responsibilities. Going over the work, with guidance from you and his books, will help a lot.

      WorksheetCloud also provides interactive online worksheets that are very easy to follow and fun to do. Each worksheet that you do contains 6 questions; this means that your child doesn’t have to concentrate for long periods at a time. When they do a worksheet they can complete the 6 questions, take a break, and then continue doing the worksheets again. This allows the child to be able to focus just a little bit at a time so that they don’t feel frustrated or frazzled by the amount of questions.

      In addition to all of the above, you can also take a look at some of our blog posts covering ‘how to motivate your child to keep studying/trying’, you can find them here:

      I hope this helps.

      Ross 🙂

  3. Josie Lambert

    Thank you! I find all your articles useful and really insightful!
    I understand it’s a parent’s job to bring up the necessary skills. And of course, it’s crucial that the child is curious and resilient.
    These are really the right strategies, and it may not be necessary to follow all 10, but a few.

  4. Christa Rossouw

    Thanks, this email re study notes and other useful videos are great. I would like to try them with my Gr 4 – 9 learners.

  5. Nikite Muller

    I enjoyed this article on building resilience, particularly relevant at the moment. Is there any way this could be reproduced into a .pdf format for easy printing? I would love for my daughter to read it and keep it somewhere safe so she can turn to it when she is feeling overwhelmed. In fact, both of us will benefit hugely from being able to refer to when needed (from me not putting pressure on and her learning and developing her resilience skills).

  6. Julie

    Perhaps something for a future post…
    I am the mom of an academic achiever. I get made to feel bad.
    A specific mom replied and said that when giving out awards to the “clever” kids, they shouldn’t praise them for their hard work, implying that the kid who struggles also worked hard but couldn’t achieve the same marks.
    I agree that not everyone is an academic, and that the world needs the artists and the mechanics and the actresses etc etc, but my child can’t draw pictures and is scared of a cricket ball.
    I have heard some really harsh comments. I get made to feel bad for celebrating hid success, yet I celebrate their children’s achievements like man of the match etc
    Do you feel that a smart kid should still be recognised for their achievements?

    • Ross Frank

      Hey Julie, thanks for your comment on our blog!

      I too agree with this and you’ve raised a really interesting and important point, thank so much for sharing!

      I’ll definitely share this topic with our team to consider adding in the future as we are always looking out for great articles to provide you and your child’s educational needs.

      Please let us know if there are any other blog topics or videos you would like us to cover in the future or if you have any questions regarding our content.

      Ross 🙂


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