Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficult situations. Resilient people are those who have faced hardship or trauma, and have achieved despite these difficulties. Parents/caregivers can expect that all children will experience hardship at some point in their lives. Coping well under hardship can be taught, as demonstrated by research. Common traits of a resilient person include the following:
1. Ability to face challenges and change
2. Ability to identify and express emotions
3. Ability to care for themselves
4. Ability to set reasonable goals
5. Ability to ask for help when needed
In fact, resilience is a trait that has been well researched. Lucy Hone is a prominent researcher at New Zealand Institute of Wellbeing & Resilience, and has written several books about resiliency. She asserts that it is possible to “think and behave” in certain ways that promote resiliency. In particular, she identifies three characteristics of resilient people:
1) The ability to accept that suffering happens to everyone at some point in their lives
2) The ability to focus attention on the good, such as the practice of gratitude
3) The ability to ask oneself “Is what I am doing helping or harming me?” in any situation
These are areas that can be influenced by the experiences a parent gives her/his child. I'll focus on three key areas that help foster resilience:
1) Emotional awareness
Staying connected and engaged in your child’s emotional development is an important factor in raising emotionally resilient children. The connection you build with your child is very important. Allowing a safe place to nurture feelings and support positive coping follows from a solid relationship with your child. Keep in mind that healthy emotional expression is a learned skill, which can be cultivated at any age.
2) Flexible thinking
When your child is faced with a challenge, you can ask him/her questions. For example, what are his/her thoughts on how to solve the problem?
You can also help your child develop flexible thinking and adaptability by challenging rigid thinking, such as "all or nothing" thinking, "always or never" statements, or worst case scenario thinking. Also, children who develop good frustration tolerance will be more flexible under hardship. Mindfulness is a good practice to support these skills. Practicing gratitude is another way to teach your child to notice good in his/her life at any given moment.
3) Social competence
A socially competent child has empathy and the ability to interact with others. You can foster empathy by demonstrating an interest in your child's perspectives and feelings. You can challenge your child to consider the feelings of others, including other kids and pets.
In summary, resilience is a skill that an be cultivated. Focus on emotional awareness, flexible thinking, and social competence. Your relationship with your child is the most important relationship they have in their early lives. It is the key to developing these skills. Demonstrate resilience to your child, as children are constantly mirroring their caregivers. Any parent should have a plan for self-care and emotional balance, and can seek help if help is needed.
1. Hone, L. Resilient grieving: Finding strength and embracing life after a loss that changes everything. The Experiment.
2. Marchand WR. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress. J Psychiatr Pract 18(4):233-52 Jul, 2012
3. Marusak HA, Elrahal F, Peters CA, Kundu P, Lombardo MV, Calhoun VD, Goldberg EK, Cohen C, Taub JW, Rabinak CA. Mindfulness and dynamic functional neural connectivity in children and adolescents. Behav. Brain Res. 336:211-218 15 Jan, 2018