The idea of fostering “Resilient Children” is a hot topic in parenting and child psychology right now, and for such a seemingly simple concept, it’s actually a very complicated and many-layered issue. Perhaps one of the best ways of defining what ‘resilience’ is looking at it as our human capacity to “bounce-back” from difficulty or adversity in our lives – it’s a pattern of positive adaptation.
It is very hard to tell if someone “has” resiliency – there isn’t really a valid measurement tool, and people can be extremely resilient in some areas of their lives and very vulnerable in others. Some people have said it’s easier to spot a LACK of resiliency than it is to identify resiliency in action – sometimes it’s easy to see when people are having a hard time coping with stress in their lives, but even this isn’t always true (some people look like they’re doing just fine to other people, but are struggling internally). Resiliency looks different in and to everyone.
There are quite a few things you can do if you’re a parent and are looking to help your child become more resilient. Here are some of the most basic:
1) It seems very obvious but the first thing that you can do is create a loving, supportive and communicative home environment for your family. This means being demonstrative of your affection, open and approachable to talk about ANYTHING, and encouraging of your child’s endeavours. It is also very important for your child to feel safe at home, and for you to spend time together as a family.
2) Set clear boundaries and rules with real consequences, and monitor your child’s whereabouts – trust them to do things on their own, but show them that you care deeply about where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. Part of resiliency is allowing our children to learn from their mistakes — we can’t expect to have independent problem-solvers if we are always fixing things for our kids. But our children do need to know that somewhere, someone is thinking about them and loves them, and that they have responsibilities to these other people in their lives.
3) Promote healthy relationships with other adults. Kids need a variety of safe “Important People” and Role Models to turn to in times of crisis. Support your child in having positive relationships with other family members, teachers, coaches, youth workers, etc. Promote healthy peer friendships in the same way. There are going to be times in your relationship with your child where they just might not be able to come to you with their problems. Make sure they have somewhere else safe to go to in times of need.
4) Have high, but achievable expectations for your child. Everyone needs something to look forward and live up to, but we also have to set our families up for success – be reasonable about what you expect your child to achieve. Empower a sense of self-esteem and the belief that your child has control over the things that happen to them, so they don’t feel helpless or lost when things don’t go according to plan.
5) Get involved. Engage in your child’s school and extracurricular activities. Go out together in the community and be part of something bigger than your home environment, like helping out at one of Calgary’s many amazing volunteer organizations, creative arts or sports organizations, or religious organizations. Surround your child, AND YOURSELF with a wide support network, because it is so important for you to be happy and healthily functioning too!