Raising Resilient Children

By Guest Bloggers Devon Davis and Bekah Sidden

Counselors Devon Davis and Bekah Sidden teamed up a few years ago to present “Raising Resilient Children: Helping Our Kids Achieve Their Goals in the Face of Life’s Obstacles.” They spoke as part of Summit School’s Inspiring Learning Series. Devon and Bekah’s guest post below is based on that presentation. We ran this in 2011, but thought it was well worth sharing again. 

What, me worry? Parents, by definition, worry. Am I doing too much? Can my child handle that situation without me? How can I raise my child to weather the ups and downs of life?

While the often-wished-for parent manual has yet to be written, there are steps parents can take to raise resilient children.

Resilience colors every aspect of life. It is the capacity to cope competently with basic life challenges. Resilient children:

• Have realistic expectations and feel hopeful
• Capitalize on their strengths without ignoring their vulnerabilities
• Learn to focus on what they can control
• Are comfortable seeking assistance as they try to improve

Consider, then, how we interact with our children. To nurture resilience, we need to pay attention to how we communicate with our children about their ability to cope and feel competent in their world. That means pointing out the steps you saw them take in preparing for the test (“Wow, I noticed the cue cards you made and the extra hours you spent getting ready for the test”) rather than saying how brilliant they are. Or praising their improved passing and dribbling skills instead of telling them they are a world class soccer player. It’s about helping our children to embrace challenges as opportunities to grow their intelligence and build their skills.

In their books, Raising Resilient Children and Nurturing Resilience in Our Children, authors Sam Goldstein and Robert Brooks point to several factors that greatly influence resilience. These factors include empathy, communication, parental love and acceptance, competence, learning from mistakes, discipline, responsibility and social conscience. A little reflection on interactions with children should help determine what is (and isn’t) working to ensure that you’re creating an environment that nurtures resilience. What message am I sending? How similar is the message I’m sending to what I actually want to teach my child? Am I modeling the behaviors (and attitudes) I want my child to adopt?

From a practical perspective, you can provide tools that build resilience in your child:

• Children need an island of competence. This is where your child’s strengths reside, and is a jumping off place for growth, and a safe place to retreat to when things don’t go well.
• Children need at least one charismatic adult in their lives. This is a person who loves them unconditionally, believes in them, and accepts them for who they are.
• Model, model, model. Children can’t be resilient if they don’t see you being resilient. How you react to your setbacks speaks volumes.

devon_bekah.jpgMost of all, remember that raising children is a unique process. We don’t have a checklist for parenting that will work for every child. That said, we do know that specific behaviors have proven to be helpful as we support our children in coping with life’s obstacles. As Goldstein and Brooks so eloquently point out, love is a process. Not a product.

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