Building Resilience in Children
Posted on May 8, 2019 by CHS
Building resilience in children, or the ability to overcome adversity, is essential to healthy development. The development of coping skills and “protective” experiences can help to counterbalance negative or adverse experiences and ensure that children continue to reach their full potential. According to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. These relationships buffer and protect children from disruptions to their development due to adverse experiences. They also build key capacities to enable children to adapt to adversity and thrive. This combination of supportive relationships, coping skills, and positive experiences is the foundation of resilience. Learning to cope with manageable stress is essential for the development of resilience. While the brain is the most adaptable in young children, resilience can be built at any age.
Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg, Co-Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Parent and Teen Communication (Center), offers advice for parents to build resilience in children: “Instead of sheltering our children from all unhappiness,” explains Dr. Ginsburg, “our goal as parents should be to help them build resilience. Resilience is the capacity to move forward in the face of setbacks with hope and confidence in your ability to thrive in both good and challenging times.” The Center provides the following tips for parents:
- Give your children unconditional love: It takes confidence to deal with challenges, and the root of that confidence in children and teens comes from the knowledge that they are loved, and that someone values them for who they are. The wider the circle of unconditional love a child receives — from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other adults in a child’s life — the deeper the child’s sense of security and confidence will be, and the stronger the child’s foundation for resilience.
- Expect resilience in your children: Empathize with a child or teenager who has been hurt or disappointed, but maintain confidence that they have, within them, the ability to get through this pain or disappointment. We provide strength with that expectation. If, on the other hand, we expect them to be fragile, we set a harmful expectation that they are unable to find strength within themselves. “It’s crucially important for children to know that we all fail sometimes,” says Dr. Ginsburg. “That we can recover. That the people who are successful are the ones who try again.”
- Set an example of resilience: If you keep calm in the face of adversity, bounce back, try again, use your creativity to find alternatives, and cope with stress in healthy ways, your children will learn a lesson from your example that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Resources and Sources for parents regarding resilience in children:
- Harvard Center on the Developing Child
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Center for Parent and Teen Communication
- The American Psychological Association offers tips to build resilience in children and teens. Tips are also organized by age group: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience
- Sesame Street offers a number of resources for parents, educators, and children to learn how to build resilience, including activity guides for educators, videos, songs, games, activities for children, and multimedia resources: https://www.sesamestreet.org/toolkits/challenges
- Building Resilience