Resilience – What is it and how do we encourage our children to make the best out of a difficult situation and teaching them to bend without breaking?
In today’s society, children are exposed to a range of adult realities well before they are emotionally equipped to deal with them. They may experience family instability or be subjected to poverty, racism, classism or sexism. They may be the casualties of reoccurring violence in the form of child abuse, sexual abuse, or bullying. On top of this, they must withstand peer pressure, gang culture and being bombarded with media messages that promote anti-social behaviour. The ability to overcome challenging circumstances by successfully adapting and making constructive changes is termed resilience. The word resilience is derived from Latin and literally means ‘to jump or bounce back’. The capacity to positively meet life’s challenges without letting problems get in the way increases the likelihood of a successful passage to adulthood.
The million dollar question, however, is why do some people remain strong and able to cope during stressful times, when others don’t? It appears that the answer lies in how people perceive and cope with these stressful events. Resilient people tend to be more adaptable and resistant to disruption, and are able to interpret stressful experiences by seeing a crisis as an opportunity to develop their own capabilities. They believe the world is a safe and logical place and does not operate by quirks of fate.
While we can’t always control the family conditions or socialisation that our children experience, we can equip them with strategies, techniques and a reservoir of coping strategies that will build their capacity to bounce back from life’s problems through resilience. We can also teach our children the philosophy that there are more good things in life than bad, and that negative experiences can be likened to sandpaper in that they may scratch you but eventually you’ll end up smooth and polished.
here are 11 key ways to help your child develop resilience
Establish for your child a network of support that includes positive and responsible adult role models. It is ideal for children to make connections with at least one or two adults, outside the family, who can offer them caring and support, and make them feel respected, valued and special.
literacy and information skills
Inspire your child to read for pleasure by ensuring they have access to a variety of books and time to read them or be read to. Effective reading skills are not only essential for successfully negotiating the school curriculum but lay the foundation for a lifelong commitment to learning.
problem-solving and decision-making skills are essential for resilience
Actively teach your child skills in decion-making and problem-solving. In a world full of opportunities, the ability to gather information and apply consequences to make a decision is essential. Instil in your children this problem-solving model: articulate the problem, think of possible solutions, consider the best solution, attempt the solution and evaluate the result.
interpersonal skills and life skills
Assist your children to learn effective life and interpersonal skills so they can live compatibly with others, deal with life changes and adopt constructive social behaviours.
Encourage your child to discover recreational pursuits that they can participate in purely for enjoyments’ sake. Participating in such experiences provides a time for introspection, interaction and fun which enhances our quality of life. Devoting time to recreational activities also promotes socialisation and friendships which gives children a sense of belonging and a chance to enhance their interpersonal skills.
career and future planning
Assist your children to visualise their futures. Facilitate opportunities for them to explore a plethora of roles within the world of work from an early age. This provides them with a sense of purpose in life and creates an optimistic belief in a bright future. It also serves to allow them to gain an understanding of options and a notion of control and influence over their destiny.
Encourage your child to contribute to the community in a volunteer capacity. This helps them believe they have something to contribute and that they can make a positive difference to the world, as well as giving them an opportunity to assume responsibility and feel connected and valued.
active participation builds resilience
Support your children to assume meaningful responsibilities in their school, family and community. When a child has no stake in their environment and their needs and opinions aren’t valued, they feel left out of their surroundings. Chores around the home and taking on positions at school, such as librarian or lunch monitor, help to give them an emotional involvement in these places.
Foster your child’s potential for self-discipline so they can choose their behaviours and reactions, instead of being ruled by them. This requires them to have the ability to overcome procrastination, control impulses, delay gratification and to perservere at things regardless of difficulties.
thought patterns for resilience
Teach your child strategies to modify their thinking patterns. By focusing on things they can change and by recognising that they can change how they feel by changing what they think, they will come to realise that they can create their own reality.
sense of humour
Foster in your child a sense of humour that will assist them to see things in a more positive light and put situations into perspective. Laughter also stimulates a stress-busting response within the body.
Paula Galey (M Ed Psych (hons) Hdip Tchg) is a teacher who specialised in working with students with learning and behaviour difficulties. She currently writes educational resources while raising her three children.