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Why the challenges of childhood are also a learning opportunity

Children can see mistakes or challenges as a failure. As a parent, you can use these times to connect with your child and turn the negative into a positive.

Often, when children come home from school and talk about their day, they’ll talk about the challenges or incidents that have upset them. As a parent, this is an excellent opportunity to connect with your child – to talk about how they are feeling, but also as an opportunity to learn.

We can use challenging events to learn about life experiences and develop emotional resilience. Let’s look at some examples of hardships experienced by children and how parents can turn them into positives.

School work

Receiving a low grade in a test or project at school can affect a child’s self-esteem. Together, try examining what happened to identify the problem.

For example, perhaps they were tired that day, or they didn't quite understand what was required. Once you both understand the problem, put a plan in place to tackle the issue, giving your child the confidence to face the next challenge without stress.


A standard part of childhood is losing at sport. Whether it's soccer, netball, tennis or athletics, it’s likely that your child will fail to win at some point. At these times, kids looking to you for praise are likely to be worried they have disappointed you.

Rather than showing frustration or anger, discuss the game with them and make suggestions for improvement. Try to focus on the skills being learnt rather than the outcome as a way to deal with sports upsets.


Children and young people can be very dependent on their friendships. When something goes wrong, it’s common for them to feel upset. While comforting them, try taking the opportunity to listen to how your child is feeling and help them identify why they’re sad or angry. For example, is it because they feel left out of a friendship group?

Once you’ve both discussed the problem, try helping your child to think about how they could have approached the situation differently. Maybe suggest some language skills to help them express themselves more clearly, for example, ‘when you don’t play with me, I feel sad.’

Finally, is there another way they could address the situation? Perhaps encourage them to invite other children to play, or try out a new sports club to make friends.

Older teenagers

As children grow, the nature of their friendships change. Sometimes, teenagers can get caught up in the dynamics of one set of friends, which may have a negative impact. It might be helpful to encourage teens to engage in different groups of friends from school, sports, the local neighbourhood, and extended family. Having a wide circle of friends helps young people to explore their interests and become more confident in themselves.

An essential part of facing challenges is knowing they can ask for help, without fear of repercussions.

If kids feel unable to talk to their parents or family about their problems, one of these services may be useful:

Beyond Blue
- Raising Children Network

Visit our parenting HUBParenting HUB | For more tips and practical advice on building positive relationships with your child.

The resources in our Parenting HUB are put together by our family specialists who work with families across Sydney every day.  If you would like to know more about this topic, please fill in our 'Contact Us' form and we'll get in touch.  You can also call our professional Parent Line NSW counsellors on 1300 1300 52 for individual advice.

Disclaimer: This article does not give professional advice.  The contents constitute general information of a summary nature of interest and relevance at the time of publication. You should not rely on the contents as professional advice but should seek, formal advice in particular matters relevant to your particular situation

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