Being able to bounce back when life deals us a blow is one of the most important skills our children need to learn because the impact of being resilient — or not being resilient — is felt every single day by everyone around us.
Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been developing the skill of resilience for most of your life. Every time you’re presented with a stressful challenge or an obstacle, you have an opportunity to exercise and apply the “skill” of resilience. This skill is what helps you persevere when things get hard. When you learn to deal with difficult situations and setbacks, and keep going, it means you’ve developed some resilience.
Without doubt resilience is something we want to see in our children, but where does it come from and how can we help them develop it?
Experts define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”. When it comes to our children, we don’t want them to face trauma, tragedy, adversity or significant sources of stress, but when they do, it isn’t all bad. A little adversity helps kids build resilience, and helping them build resilience with things they are facing now will provide a solid foundation for them when the bigger storms of life hit. Learning to persevere when challenges arise and problem solve when confronted with unexpected setbacks will give them an invaluable skill and set them up for future successes.
The good news is resilience is a skill that can be developed and nurtured in children somewhat naturally, you just need to be aware of the opportunities hiding in plain sight. Resilience can be built — even without us noticing — through a pretty typical cycle, one that you and your child probably experience multiple times a day. The cycle begins when a “traumatic” or challenging event occurs, which could range from losing homework or failing a test to being bullied. They will experience stress, and they’ll respond both emotionally and physiologically. At this point, as you consistently provide reassurance and guidance and as teachers or friends jump in with encouragement, your child will feel secure and the initial heightened responses are calmed. Working with your child to assess the situation, problem solve for workable solutions, and set small goals will lead to positive outcomes for the stress cycle. Experts say this entire process builds resilience because it encourages the child to be calm, solution-oriented in the face of challenge, and reinforces that external support systems are all around them. All this makes experiencing stress potentially a good thing. As parents we just have to encourage our children through it.
When your child faces stressful situations, you can provide the reassurance and guidance they need to build their resilience muscle. The result will be a child who is learning to adapt positively despite setbacks and one who can see challenges as learning opportunities. They can become optimistic and hopeful, and keep things in perspective. They will learn to persevere and
even thrive in the face of challenges, disappointments, and difficulties, and they’ll look for alternative ways to handle unexpected setbacks or roadblocks. All of these things can become reality when we foster resilience in our children.
That’s good for them, and that’s good for you too.
AAP. (2019). The Resilience Project. We can stop toxic stress. Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/resilience/Pages/Promoting-Resilience.aspx.
AAP. (2019). The road to resilience. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.
Petersen, N. (2016). ADHD and Resilience. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 2, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/adhd-millennial/2016/10/adhd-and-resilience/