Thursday, April 14, 2011

Resilience in Children

Q. I want to make sure I am teaching my child how to bounce back from life's trials and hardships. I want them to be resilient. How do I do that?

A. What a wonderful concept you want to teach your children. Resiliency has been the focus of a great deal of research in recent years. Resiliency answers the question of why some children are successful in the face of trials or traumas and why some children really struggle to overcome the things that have happen to them.

Your question is a great one. You want to know how to teach your child to become resilient. First, let's define what resiliency means. Brooks and Goldstein, noted authors on the subject of resiliency, define it as "a quality conveyed through feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that facilitate the ability to overcome adversity." They also define it as "a pattern of positive adaptations in the context of past or present adversity." Basically, this means that a child learns to bounce back or rebound after traumatic or difficult events occur.

Research shows that resiliency is a learned behavior. There are some temperaments in children that make it more likely that a child will be resilient, but all children can learn to be resilient. By being empathetic with your child, respectful, and using disciple to teach your children, you are helping them learn to be resilient. You also instill resiliency when you allow your children to solve their own problems and stop trying to fix everything for them. Children need to feel competent and have mastery over life's trials. By allowing them to try, and possibly fail, at their attempts, you are communicating to them that you believe in them and believe in their ability to overcome.

Another important point in resiliency research is the idea that one adult can make a world of difference for a child. Research shows if a child can have a connection with one caring adult in their life who believes in them, they are more likely to be resilient as adults. All it takes is one person believing in that child. You as a parent can be that one person. Teachers, principals, pastors, youth pastors, or other caring adults can provide that for children as well.

Do you want to know if you have a resiliency mindset? Take Brooks and Goldstein's Resiliency Mindset Quiz here.

There are many other tips to teaching your child resiliency. Check back in two weeks for a Top Ten List of Ways to Teach Resiliency in Children.

- Information gathered and cited from

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

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