Resilience … it’s a familiar word. But what does it really mean?
When we talk about resilience, we’re talking about a child’s ability to cope with ups and downs, deal with stress and anxiety, or bounce back from the challenges they experience. Childhood doesn’t give them an exemption either. For example, moving into a new home, changing schools, studying for an exam or dealing with the death of a loved one. Building resilience helps children ton not only to deal with current difficulties that are realities of life, but also to develop the basic skills and habits that will help them deal with challenges later in life.
Resilience is important for children’s mental health. Children with greater resilience are better able to manage stress, which is a common response to difficult events. Stress is a risk factor for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, if the level of stress is severe or ongoing.
So where does resilience come from?
Resilience is shaped partly by the individual characteristics we are born with (our genes, temperament and personality) and partly by the environment we grow up in. These factors can be our family, community and the broader society. While there are some things we can’t change, such as our biological makeup, there are many things we can change.
One way of explaining the concept of resilience is to imagine a ship encountering rough seas, or stormy weather. The rough seas, or poor weather, represents adversity. Different ships will respond to poor weather conditions in different ways, in the same way different children respond to the same adversity in different ways.
The ability of the ship to get through the poor weather and reach its destination depends on:
- the captain(the child)
- the executive officer (the child’s family, friends, teachers and health professionals)
- the size/type of ship(the child’s individual characteristics such as age and temperament)
- the equipment available to the captain, executive officer and crew
- the severity and duration of the poor weather.
We can all help children become more resilient. The good news is, you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to be a trained mental health professional. You can ask other adults, grandparents or teachers for ideas on ways to help. Building children’s resilience is everyone’s business, and it’s never too early or too late to get started. We’ve got some simple things that you can do in your own home. These strategies can help calm the seas during stormy weather.
How can I Build resilience in My Child?
The latest research shows that there are five areas that offer the best chance of building resilience in children.
As a parent, caregiver, or significant adult, you can help to develop essential skills, habits and attitudes for building resilience at home by helping your child to:
- build good relationships with others including adults and peers
- build their independence
- learn to identify, express and manage their emotions
- build their confidence by taking on personal challenges
If your child is currently experiencing stress, challenges or hardships in life which are affecting their wellbeing, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s health care provider.