Building Resiliency: Helping Children Learn to Weather Tough Times
Adversity is a natural part of life. At some point, we all face difficulties,
such as family problems, serious illness, a personal crisis, or a painful
loss. Being resilient is important to dealing with adversities like these.
While most parents hope that their children never face extreme adversity,
successfully facing tough situations can actually foster growth and give
children the skills to be more resilient in the future.
Most people have a natural tendency to adapt and bounce back from adversity.
However, parents can help their children learn to face challenges successfully,
whether it is the stresses of everyday life, such as academic difficulties
or problems with friends, or severe adversity, such as losing a home and
being displaced from normal routines for months. Following are five ways
to promote resiliency in your children and help protect them from long-term
ill affects of difficult experiences.
positive!! Modeling positive attitudes and positive emotions is very
important. Children need to hear parents thinking out loud positively and
being determined to persist until a goal is achieved. Using a “can do” problem-solving
approach to problems teaches children a sense of power and promise.
love and gratitude! Emotions such as love and gratitude increase resiliency.
Praise should always occur much more often than criticism. Children and
adolescents who are cared for, loved, and supported learn to express positive
emotions to others. Positive emotions buffer kids against depression and
other negative reactions to adversity.
yourself! Resilient people appropriately express all emotions, even
negative ones. Parents who help kids become more aware of emotions, label
emotions appropriately, and help children deal with upsetting events are
giving them useful life skills.
fit! Good physical health prepares the body and mind to be more resilient.
Healthy eating habits, regular exercise and adequate sleep protect kids
against the stress of tough situations. Regular exercise also decreases
negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, and depression.
competency! Making sure that children and adolescents achieve academically
is great protection against adversity. Children who achieve academic success
and who develop individual talents, such as playing sports, drawing, making
things, playing musical instruments or playing games are much more likely
to feel competent and be able to deal with stress positively. Social competency
is also important. Having friends and staying connected to friends and
loved ones can increase resiliency. Social competency can even be created
by helping others.
Protecting our children against all of life’s unexpected painful events
is not possible. Giving them a sense of competency and the skills to face
adverse circumstances can be a valuable legacy of all parents. Resiliency
can be built by understanding these important foundations. The more we practice
these approaches; the better able our children will be to weather whatever
Adapted from: “Resiliency: Strategies for Parents and Educators,” Virginia
Smith Harvey, Helping Children at Home and School II: Handouts for
Families and Educators, NASP, 2004