Promoting resilience in children
This post will be about resilience and how children can use it to help them when they face adversity. Gilligan, 2009 cited in Leverett, 2016 says that resilience is used to describe the capacity of someone to prevent, minimise or overcome any damaging affects of adversity.
Adversity can be anything challenging in a child's life for example, the death or illness of a family member. How they react and adapt to these events is based on how resilient they are. Resilience can be built up through supportive relationships. A child’s feeling of security and the quality of the parent- child relationship and so a positive and engaging parenting approach can help promote your child’s resilience from birth. Werner and Smith, 1982 cited in Punch, 2013 shows how risk factors affect children differently, they found that the group of children who were resilient were securely attached to their main caregivers. There was also a larger support network of adults who they trusted. Positive role modelling can help children by demonstrating to them a positive way of approaching an adversity. It has been found that some children are better able to manage stress because if their disposition or temperament. However, Daniel et al., 2010 cited in Punch, 2013 reminds us that some children who appear to be resilient may be internalising their symptoms. This can prevent them from receiving the support that they need.
A personal example in my life recently is that our dog had to be put to sleep. I was worried about how to tell Jamie (6). His dad wanted to use the farm story but we decided that could lead to awkward questions later such as, can we go and visit the dog? In the end his dad told him what happened and Jamie put his head down, got abit choked up and got a hug from his dad. Later when it was just myself and Jamie I asked him if he was ok? He said yes, he didn’t cry. I told him that I had cried and that it was ok to be upset as it was a sad thing that happened. He responded that he knows that animals don't live as long as humans. Jamie has demonstrated resilience by initially acknowledging the sadness and then managing his emotions using logic. This is how he has actively attempted to take control of his life, by being adaptable to a tragic life event.
Our positive parenting approach was to trust that he was old enough to manage the event and to also discuss our own emotions. It means he can recognise that it is ok to show emotions and that we were available for him if he wanted to talk about it at a later date. The most resilient of children will still require adult support. This is why there is so much emphasis on the parent-child relationships. How we react to adversity may well influence how our children develop psychologically and emotionally in regards to changing life events.
Ways to promote resilience
- Maintain a daily routine. This helps the child feel secure and helps them know what to expect next.
- Nurture a positive self-image. It can help with older children to remind them of times when they were successful overcoming an adversity. This will build their self-esteem.
- Help them to see there is something beyond the current situation. This can help them gain perspective and to keep going.
- Use family time. Take time to talk about your day, week or month. This means they know you are emotionally and physically available for them if they are struggling with something.
Leverett, S, (2016), 'Promoting children's welfare', in Farrington-Flint, L and Montgomery, H (eds), An introduction to childhood studies and child psychology, The Open University, Milton Keynes, The Policy Press
Punch, S (2013), 'Resilience and well-being', in Montgomery, H (ed), Local childhoods, global issues, The Open University, Milton Keynes, The Policy Press