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Resilience: The Skill Your Child Needs to Learn

It’s the end of the study year. It’s the time when many parents think about their dreams and hopes for their children. It’s the time of graduation speeches, for looking back at accomplishments and making a strategy for new ones.

As parents, we think about getting into good schools, excelling at athletics, getting good grades, and getting good jobs. All these are great, but resilience is something that every child needs if they are going to truly succeed in life.

Resilience is the ability to get around life’s inevitable bumps and still be healthy and happy to stay on track. It’s also the ability to overcome hardship and be okay. What sometimes bothers me is the way that electronic devices have become so ubiquitous, and our present parenting culture of success and obsessing over safety may get in the way of learning resilience.

Four factors help children develop resilience, according to Harvard University’s Centre on the Developing Child. They are:

  • Supportive adult-child relationships: Nurturing relationships to make all the difference is crucial. All it takes is to be supportive. This factor helps children to know that they matter to someone and that they aren’t alone. The quest of daily life can, for some parents, get in the way of having a good relationship with their child. When your child has your undivided attention, try to spend regular time with them. Ask about their day, spend time doing things together and get involved in activities they enjoy. Make sure your child knows that you have their back and you will love them regardless.
  • A sense of self-efficacy and perceived control: You want to help a child learn how to manage and how to figure a way through life, even if things go wrong. Your child needs to learn it for themselves, you can’t-do this just by telling your child that he is smart and capable. Step by step, letting children make decisions, giving independence and taking risks helps them learn to weather life’s storms. Letting children take risks is not always easy because we never want them to be hurt physically or emotionally, but in a gradual way and with you at their back, most children can manage fine. Learning to be physically capable is essential and learning this involves staying active. Children learn not only their strengths and limitations in running and climbing and other such activities but also learn how to plan and troubleshoot.

  • Strong adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities: It’s known as “executive function”. It’s just like ‘air traffic controller’ functions of life: It’s the ability to make a plan, not get distracted, prioritise, negotiate, manage emotions and get along with others. There is no way to learn these without practice because they are not easy tasks. Unstructured playtime, either alone or with others is one of the best ways for children to practice. Not giving in to tantrums, consistent discipline and helping the children manage their frustration or sadness rather than just fixing it for them, can also help. An activity to support executive function at every age is also recommended by the Centre on the Developing Child.
  • Being capable of mobilising sources of hope, faith, and cultural traditions: To be part of something bigger is helpful, to have traditions and community that help you through difficult times. If you don’t belong to one, this doesn’t mean that you need to join a faith. However, you could go to services a bit more often if you do. And if you don’t, joining a community group, spending time with extended family and taking part in voluntary opportunities together can help give your child a perspective on life and strategies for handling challenges. Because what gets us through and helps us succeed in life is the ability to keep perspective and manage challenges.