A resilient child grows up to become a resilient adult; prepared for challenges, able to overcome adversity, persistent and determined to reach their goals. Most parents would agree that they hope their child is resilient enough to one day grow into a resilient adult. So, what makes a resilient child and how do our interactions with our children impact the person they grow to be?
What does a resilient child look like? This is going to depend on the child’s age and maturity level, but there are several qualities that stay consistent over time. Resilient children:
- Believe they have control over their lives and take direction
- They are able to make positive choices, understand what is not in their control and respect the boundaries and limits the adults in their lives have set for them. However, they believe they can influence the experiences they have and can solve problems on their own
- Are optimistic
- Resilient children believe they can achieve their goals and that they can overcome setbacks and even failures. The future is bright!
- They problem solve
- They will be able to understand a situation, identify and break down the issue and create the best solution in a timely manner without becoming overwhelmed.
- They express emotions appropriately
- Resilient children are less likely to act out through destructive behaviors as they are prepared for challenges and cope with emotions while expressing and communicating them in a positive way. This comes along with a sense of security with the people around them
- Are socially adept
- They can ask for help when they need it and can also problem solve with their peers when there are conflicts
The good news is, there are several ways in which we can encourage our children to be more resilient and gain skills that will benefit them their entire lives. Some of these tips include but are not limited to:
- Not accommodating their every need
- Encourage autonomy. Encourage them to attempt to try things (homework, chores) before asking an adult for assistance. They will likely surprise both themselves and you with how much they can do themselves!
- Don’t always give them the answers
- Our children often come to us for advice, questions and support. Sometimes, instead of giving them your own opinion, ask them what they think! They often are great problem solvers and capable of solving their own problems on their own.
- Let mistakes happen
- Learning to fix mistakes is a great lesson for children, and often sets them up to make less mistakes going forward. Often, the natural reinforcers of mistakes (forgetting homework, etc.) are enough to teach children they don’t want to make another one.
- Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child
- We often want everything to be perfect for our children- who wouldn’t! However, in reality, when we eliminate the risks and road bumps for our children we are not preparing them for the real world and actually end up doing them a disservice.
- Help manage emotions
- Work on acknowledging feelings with a phrase such as, “I can see this is upsetting for you, let me know what I can do to help. It is okay to have feelings about this”.
- Maintain a safe and trusting environment
- Children who feel a sense of safety, community and belonging are more likely to turn to family, friends and teachers in times of need rather than turning inward knowing that they can work through challenges in mistakes in a healthy way.
Keep in mind that children, in general, are what we consider “antifragile”. This means, they actually require stressors and challenges in order to learn, adapt and grow. Additionally, one of the greatest things we can do to help our children become resilient is to model resiliency. Children are constantly watching and learning from the adults in their lives. Therefore, how we handle adversity has a significant impact on them.
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 10 Tips For Raising Resilient Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 7, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-tips-for-raising-resilient-kids/
Taleb, N. N. (2012). Antifragile: Things that gain from disorder. New York: Random House.