Resilient people are the most likely to succeed at life, so of course every parent wants their children to be resilient.
But what exactly is resilience?
Simply put, resilience is the ability to deal with adversity. Someone who can cope with a setback and get back on track is showing that they are being resilient. Because we all suffer setbacks at some point in our lives, resilience is a crucial quality to have.
Parents can help their children to develop resilience in various ways. The first and most important input that any parent can give in this area is simply to love their child and to show them that they are loved. That might sound trite, but the implications for the child who feels loved will last a lifetime. Very early childhood in particular is an important stage for brain development. Research shows that children who feel insecure during this period of their lives lay down neural pathways that will make it more likely for them to grow up to have problems with issues such as anger management and insecurity. Conversely, the child who feels secure with the person or people taking care of them and who receives plenty of affection and loving care, will develop neural pathways that will make it easier for them to regulate their emotions for the rest of their lives. This is true regardless of the family’s economic status. Research shows that even children who grow up with high levels of material deprivation can do very well so long as they are loved.
Another important factor in developing resilience is allowing the child to experience the normal setbacks of life and to develop coping mechanisms, rather than trying to shield them from every negative experience. Of course, all children should be protected from serious trauma as much as possible, but some things in life are inevitable, such as the death of a beloved pet, a grandparent’s illness, or an argument with a close friend. When your child encounters a barrier to their happiness, rather than trying to make it “go away” it is more useful to help them to experience it, discuss it, and move on. To take a common cause of sorrow in a child’s life, imagine the death of a beloved pet. It may be tempting to lie and say that the pet has gone to live on a farm in another part of the country, but it is more useful to your child to tell them the truth, let them mourn their animal friend, and learn how to remember the good times. Children who develop the skills they need to cope with unpleasant or challenging experiences will bring these skills with them as they reach adulthood and will be more resilient as a result.
When it comes to raising happy and fulfilled children, so long as their basic material needs are met, money is not that important. Instead, love, support, and care—in difficult times as well as easier times—will help them to become happy, fulfilled adults.
Mayer, J.D. &Salovey, P. (1997). What is emotional Resilience? In P. Salovey& D.J. Sluyter (Eds.), Emotional Development and Emotional Resilience: Educational Implications: 3-31. New York: Basic Books
Bauman, S.S.M. (2002) ‘Fostering resilience in children’, in C.L. Juntunen and D.R. Atkinson (eds) Counseling across the Lifespan. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
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