The Power of Resilience

Fostering strength, hope and optimism in our children.

If Beaver, of the 1950’s television sitcom Leave it to Beaver, were a student today, he might not be doing so well. The increased stress, pressure and demands on the children of today has caused an alarming increase in childhood depression, health disorders and school problems. However, numerous scientific studies of children facing great adversity have demonstrated just how important the power of resilience is for successful growth. Growth that most parents want for their children.

Parents seek happiness, success in school, satisfaction in life and solid friendships as keys to helping their children transition happily and successfully into adult life. If we examined these parental goals it would not be an oversimplification to conclude that realizing these goals requires that our children possess the inner strength to deal competently and successfully day after day with the challenges and demands they encounter. This capacity to cope and feel competent is called resilience.

Resilience embraces the ability of a child to deal effectively with stress and pressure, to cope with every day challenges, to bounce back from disappointments, adversity and trauma, to develop clear and realistic goals, to solve problems, to relate comfortably with others and to treat one’s self and others with respect. Scientific studies of children facing great adversity in their lives support the importance of a resilient mindset as a powerful force. Resilience explains why some children overcome overwhelming obstacles, sometimes clawing and scraping their way to successful adulthood, while others become victims of their early experiences in environments.

Regardless of ethical, cultural, religious or scientific beliefs, by presenting resilience in this framework, we can all agree that we must strive to raise resilient youngsters. Knowing what needs to be done, however, is not the same as knowing how to do it. Although many of us increasingly view the world as a hostile place in which to raise children or a place even Beaver Cleaver would be at risk, the solution of constructing taller walls around our families and double locking the front door in order to keep out a seemingly toxic culture is unrealistic. Blaming the world around us, which we are all in fact a part of and have to some extent been responsible for shaping, as an anti-family, child poisoning culture, does little to relieve our ominous sense that great adversity may await our children’s future.

No child is immune in this environment. In this fast paced, stress filled world, the number of children facing adversity and the number of adversities they face continues to increase dramatically. Even children fortunate to not face significant adversity or trauma or to be burdened by intense stress or anxiety, experience the pressures around them and the expectations we place on them. If we want to raise resilient children, we must not concentrate all of our energy on changing the world around us but we rather must begin by changing what we do with our children. We must begin by appreciating that we can no longer afford the luxury of assuming that if our children don’t face significant stress or adversity they will turn out just fine. Interestingly, many well meaning, loving parents either do not understand the parental practices that contribute to raising a resilient child or do not do what they know. The process of resilience defines a process of parenting that is essential if we are to prepare our children for success in all areas of their future lives. Given this belief, a guiding principle in all of our interactions with children should be to strengthen their ability to be resilient and to meet life challenges with thoughtfulness, confidence, purpose and empathy.

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