Resilience, the ability to recover from mental and emotional challenges, to maintain mental toughness and flexibility, is pivotal to specific areas of childhood development: autonomy, intimacy, interaction, and identity. As such an essential trait, it is natural to question its instinctual or inherent basis. While some aspects of resilience are bor out from a developing brain — and genetics may play some role in an individual’s natural adaptiveness — the most revealing information from the current research is the part stable and supportive relationships play in creating adaptive capacities. The studies demonstrate that resilience, more than anything, is a learned and honed skill.1
Can Resilience Be Learned?
Resilience is a skill and behavior; it is a set of learned coping mechanisms and positive practices that encourage perseverance.2 Like any other behavior, a child can learn resilience through repetition, conditioning, and encouragement.
A parent or teacher should not focus on avoidance or the absence of trauma as that is impossible. Every person, child or adult, will experience hardship. Resilience training aims not to create a barrier to trauma but a coping mechanism, a tool to allow grief and pain to impact the emotions without destroying the ideas of self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence. Resilience is about building a stable foundation of positive reinforcement and encouragement so that children do not shut down at the first sign of adversity.
Ways To Build Resilience in Kids
Children might find it challenging to understand resilience as a concept, but that doesn’t mean they cannot benefit from deliberate practice. There are at least five ways to build resilience in children:3
- Communicate and connect: Take time to explain to your child the importance of engaging with their peer group. You can help them practice by encouraging in-person play dates, teaching about empathy and listening.
- Volunteer: While you do not want to overwhelm a child with volunteer work beyond their age or maturity level, volunteerism can promote confidence and compassion. Brainstorm with your children about how they can help their peers or others.
- Embrace change but maintain routines: While children must understand change is a part of life, when they are young, maintaining a habit is comforting, especially in times of hardship. Routines can be soothing.
- Practice self-care: Children need help learning how to care for themselves mentally and physically. In terms of resilience, you can help your child learn to balance by ensuring they have and understand time for sleep, exercise, eating, fun, etc.
- Set reasonable goals: Teaching children how to break larger tasks into smaller and more manageable pieces can help them later in life. Remember to simplify more significant concepts into understandable mediums for your child.
Resilience & Preschool Children
Preschool children often do not possess the language and communication skills necessary to express anxiety, but that doesn’t mean they do not feel it. You, as a parent or teacher, need to pay attention to behavioral clues. Is the child more clingy, irritable, timid? If your child is not acting like themselves, try to encourage dialogue through play, and always assure your child of the love and support within their family.
Resilience & Elementary School Children
Elementary school children will begin to experience stressors outside the home as they explore social groups and expand their identity. To encourage resilience, you must maintain open and honest communication at home. Let your child know they have a voice and a family that supports them.
Resilience is essential to childhood development, and it is a skill that can be learned. Through deliberate practice and interactions, your child can form healthy and stable self-worth. However, psychological health is only part of overall health; Wellements is an OTC brand promoting organic infant and child medicines.