Let's Talk About Resilience



“Encouraging a child to go outside in all weather builds resilience, but more
importantly it saves them from spending their life merely tolerating the bad days
in favour of a handful of good ones.” – Nicolette Sowder

What is resiliency?

Resilience refers to a child’s ability to cope with challenges, stressors, or trauma that he or she may face while growing up. Resilience is a skill that can be learned and enhanced. Building resilience allows children to deal with current difficulties that are part of everyday life and to develop the basic skills and habits that will help them deal with challenges later on in life. Resiliency depends on multiple factors including a child’s personal characteristics, such as his or her temperament or personality, and the environment in which a child grows up, including his or her family, community, and society at large.

One way of thinking about the concept of resilience is to imagine a ship encountering a storm at sea. The rain and lightning together with the rough waves represent adversity or challenges that children may face throughout their lives. Different types of boats and ships will respond to these weather conditions in different ways. What is important is how you approach the storm. Will you fight it out or will you let it defeat you? The former represents a show of resilience! The ship’s ability to pass through the storm is dependent on multiple factors. These factors include:
  • The captain (the child);
  • The co-captain (the family);
  • Crew members (friends, teachers, and health care professionals);
  • Type of ship (child’s individual characteristics such as age, temperament, personality);
  • Equipment available (skills and knowledge base from previous encounters); and
  • The severity and duration of the storm
Children will encounter stressors of varying degrees and intensity as they grow up and need to be equipped to cope with these. Some examples of stressors that your child may experience include falling on the playground, moving to a new school or house, encountering bullies, taking a test, experiencing loss and grief, or the divorce of parents. Some of these events might seem small or even insignificant to an adult, but they are often experienced as quite overwhelming for children. Children who lack resiliency may be unsure of how to navigate these unchartered waters. Resiliency allows a child to cope with these obstacles in a more appropriate and effective manner, while also gaining confidence in his or her ability to manage unfamiliar or stressful situations.  

How can parents and caregivers support children in developing resiliency?

 
  • Allow your child to work through and solve the problem independently. The parental instinct may kick in, causing you to want to intervene and help your child but it is important for him or her to become an independent problem-solver! Instead, ask your child questions about his or her problem, allowing your child to think through the issue and to come up with some solutions.
  • Build a strong emotional connection. Children learn so much from observing the behaviour of those around them, especially their parents, and spending time together gives them this opportunity. Be aware of how you, as a parent, handle stressful situations and the example you are setting for your child.
  • Promote healthy risk-taking. Encourage your child to participate in activities or events that are outside of his or her comfort zone. By avoiding taking risks or trying new things, they may internalise the message that they are not strong enough to handle novel situations or challenges. When children embrace healthy risks, they learn to push themselves and build resilience in unfamiliar situations.
  • Enhance your child’s emotional vocabulary. Emotions can leave children feeling overwhelmed, especially if they are unfamiliar. Teach your child that all feelings are important and help them to name each feeling. This supports your child to make sense of what he or she is experiencing.
  • Nurture a positive view of themselves. Remind your child of ways that he or she has successfully handled hardships in the past. Help him or her understand that these past challenges have helped build the strength to handle future challenges.
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