Bouncing Back: Fostering Resilience In Our Kids
We live in a world where it’s tempting to try to “work everything out” for our kids. But when your child has an ADHD diagnosis, that may seem totally impossible. You can be assured, however, that stress can serve a good purpose by working to build resilience. And when that resilience muscle is well-defined, your kid will know how to persevere through tough times. With your encouragement and guidance, and a little help from Esteem, your child doesn’t have to see setbacks and roadblocks as the end of the world. They can see them as opportunities to problem solve, dig deep, and to bounce back from whatever life throws at them.
Parents play a crucial role in building a caring home environment that nurtures the social and emotional skills needed to build resilience in their children. But what is resilience, where does it come from, and how can we foster its development in our kids?
What is Resilience?
We need resilience because of stress. And we all know about stress. Experts define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors.” When it comes to our kids, we don’t want them to face trauma, tragedy, or significant sources of stress, but the odds are, at some point in life, they probably will. Helping them build resilience in small things now will provide a foundation for them when the bigger storms of life hit.
The need for resilience comes from stress. For a child, when a traumatic event occurs, which could range in intensity from failing a test to being bullied to losing a loved one, they will experience stress. They’ll have both an emotional and a physical response. Ideally, they will receive support through parental reassurance and social supports which will lead to stabilization. This will build inner strength and teach the child how to utilize external support systems.
Resilience is a skill that can be developed and nurtured in children. Resilient kids persevere when challenges arise and bounce back when confronted with unexpected setbacks. Ideally, children will develop the ability to adapt positively and overcome obstacles through problem solving and perseverance. Moving forward and maintaining an optimistic outlook, while managing negative emotions are also important parts of healthy resilience.
Qualities of a Resilient Child
A child who is resilient will adapt positively despite setbacks and see them as learning opportunities. They are optimistic and hopeful, and keep things in perspective. They will persevere and even thrive in the face of challenges, disappointments, and difficulties. Determined, they will find alternative ways to handle unexpected setbacks or roadblocks. They have self-control and good emotional management, especially with regard to negative emotions. Brave, curious, and adaptable are words that describe resilient kids.
Resilience-fostering Interactions at Home
Building resilience in our kids begins at home by giving them SPACE to grow.
Support. A supportive environment is key to raising resilient kids. This includes actively listening and providing positive feedback.
Problem Solve. Letting problems arise for our kids, which isn’t always easy for parents, sets up opportunity to work together to develop alternatives, to persevere through difficulties, and to reflect on the process.
Affirm. Praise is a highly effective resilience builder. Parents who affirm the strengths and efforts of their kids will soon find them bouncing back from disappointments and developing a determined willingness to try again.
Cheer. Any and all effort can and should be cheered on by parents. Celebrating successes, even the small ones, will pay dividends.
Empower. Resilience grows when kids are allowed to make some decisions. When they are encouraged to share their ideas and opinions and empowered to make and implement plans, even if they fail, children will become comfortable with assessing and tackling challenges.
Giving SPACE works best within a highly supportive and responsive environment. This means striving to meet your child’s needs and being present with them. Children feel supported when we regularly and intentionally encourage them with comments like “I believe in you” and “I know you can do it.” This builds their self-confidence and provides them with important reassurance to try new or challenging things. It’s also important to be a positive role model by setting a good example, especially with social skills. In our homes, more is caught than taught and much of the behavior we see in our children can be traced to our example.
In a world where it is tempting to “work everything out” for our children, parents seeking to raise resilient kids will provide opportunities for appropriate challenges to present themselves. They will set realistic expectations, assign appropriate responsibilities like chores, and work to be consistent with daily routines. Keeping an eye on progress and watching for signs of stress or unwarranted levels of frustration will allow parents to assess, encourage, and adjust as needed. Taking these steps will result in resilient kids willing to confront and persevere through challenges.
That's good for them. And that's good for you too.
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AAP. The Resilience Project. We can stop toxic stress. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/resilience/Pages/Promoting-Resilience.aspx.
AAP. The Road to Resilience. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.
Ministry of Education Singapore. Resilience Boosters Infographic.
Ministry of Education Singapore. Resilience-Fostering Interactions Infographic.