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Resilience - a 21st Century parenting concept

By Lesley Murrihy | Posted: Monday November 30, 2015

Building resilience in our children is particularly important for our children who live in a fast-paced, ever changing world.

Yesterday I was at a meeting with principals and one of the issues of concern that came up is the high numbers of children in our schools who experience significant levels of anxiety. In this very busy, high pressured and risk averse world, we can be afraid to let our children take risks and solve their own problems in case we are seen to be "careless" parents. Also, we love our children so much we don't want to see them hurting and anxious and, as a result, we can be prone to jump in and solve their problems for them.

Some children have a naturally resilient temperament. They are just mentally and psychologically tough. They get straight back up after a setback or disappointment. Rejection in the playground doesn’t faze them and they never become victims of bullying. Unfortunately, not every child has such natural resilience.

The good news is that most of the research shows that resilience can be nurtured and developed, particularly when parents themselves are resilient and they actively foster it in their kids. Resilient children share four basic skill sets- independence, problem-solving, optimism and social connection.

Parents need to coach kids through some of their more challenging moments and reviewing what they may have learned for next time. They need to avoid solving all their problems for them and they need to help their children maintain a positive outlook on things by modeling it and by continually assisting them to see the positives and not just dwell on the negatives. Unfortunately, this coaching approach requires time - something we don't always feel we have - and it doesn't solve the problem immediately. Of course, when our children show that they are not coping or the problem is ongoing, as parents, we do need to step in and help with problems.

According to Michael Grose, parents can promote a lasting sense of resilience in their kids by:

*Having a positive attitude. The attitude of parents impacts on a child's ability to bounce back from some of the difficulties he/she faces. As a parent, model a ‘you can do it’ attitude for your child when he/she meets some of life’s curve balls.

*Look for teachable moments. Many kids’ learning opportunities are disguised as problems. Make the most of these opportunities so that kids can grow and learn from some of the challenges they face. Coach them through the problem rather than jump in to solve it.

*Make kids active participants in the family. Active participation in a family develops the self-help, problem-solving and independence skills of kids that are necessary for resilience.

*Build kids' coping skills. There are plenty of strategies you can pass on to kids to help them cope when life doesn’t go their way, including acceptance, getting away for a while, and normalisation.

Promoting resilience in kids is a not a single event but a continuous process that requires adults to be supportive and empathetic when things don’t go children's way. It also requires parents to have an understanding of resilience, so you have faith in yourself, and your child’s ability to cope.

Given the high levels of anxiety being seen in children in schools, it is very important for both schools and parents to consider how we work together to build greater resilience in our children.