Why and how to build resilience in your children

by Ramya Manoharan | Mar 27, 2017

Bouncing back from adversity

It’s valuable to know how to recover from adversity. And, resilience is the state of mind that helps you do it. You hear the word being spoken by leaders along corridors of power, human rights activists, sports coaches, child rights activists, and from directors at corporate board meetings.

We strive for resilience and want it for our children so they have the tools and know how to lead a successful and happy life. But, the word is thrown around so loosely that it’s become meaningless jargon now. What is this elusive trait and how can one build resilience?

What is resilience?

The Australian Institute of Family Studies says that defined broadly, resilience is ‘the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance, undergo change and still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity and feedbacks’. Australian psychologist Andrew Fuller said, “Resilience is the happy knack of being able to bungy jump through the pitfalls of life.”

Delving deeper, clinical psychologist Norman Garmezy, who was considered the pioneer of the resilience theory, has called resilient children as invulnerable children. He says they are those “who, despite genetic, psychological and environmental disadvantage, continue to adapt and perform competently.”

Ann-Maree Kelly, who has authored the ASG e-guide Building resilience in your child, says we all experience ups and downs in our lives, and that your child is no different. Resilient children are more able to cope when things get tough at school, at home and in their relationships with family and friends. “They have the ability to ‘bounce back’,” she said.  


Why is resilience so important?

Increasingly, teachers and schools are incorporating resilience building programs in children’s learning because research has identified that:

  • Children with good resilience perform better at school
  • They are less likely to take part in risky behaviour
  • Knowing how to turn things around when the going gets tough helps children thrive.

Resilience can be learned

  • The good news is that resilience can be learned. And you, the parent, has a big role to help children build it into their character.

    Ms Kelly lists seven necessities to help children overcome adversity and build resilience:

  • unconditional love and acceptance
  • some autonomy over their life
  • trusting relationships with significant adults
  • feelings of independence
  • secure relationships and strong role models to help foster friendships and commitment
  • a safe and stable environment
  • self-confidence and faith in themselves and their world.

Children can learn strategies for building resilience over time. Learning to think positively and in perspective means a child can cope with problems and setbacks. It also means children have opportunities to learn how to build strengths that protect and promote wellbeing.




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