Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from difficult situations, cope with significant life changes and the ability to problem solve in helpful and constructive ways. If we do not have resiliency, then we are more likely to be negatively impacted by upsetting or traumatic life events. “Resilient children use coping skills that they developed from past experiences to cope better with new situations as they arise”. (www.preventioninstitute.sk.ca) Parents and caregivers can help create resiliency with their children by providing safe environments and relationships within their home, community and schools so that they can learn how to use their external support systems and also draw from their inner strengths.(www.searchinstitute.org)
Developing an attachment relationship between caregivers and children is the key to building resiliency. By being present with our children, talking with them, playing with them, giving undivided attention, teaches our children that they are valued and important. Developing trust that the significant adults in our children’s lives are going to meet both their emotional and physical safety consistently is also significant as this provides an external support system they know they can rely on as well as builds their self esteem. Having empathy and teaching our children to be empathetic is important in building resiliency. Resonating with our children by setting aside our own thoughts and feelings in order to understand our children’s own experiences can help teach our children positive communication and build their own personal identity.(Rella M., 2014)
In order to develop resiliency, children require a safe and consistent home environment in order to develop emotionally, developmentally and physically. Parents and caregivers can model important traits such as being flexible, courageous, confident as well as positive communication. Helping children to identify their feelings is an important skill to teach all children. Parents and caregivers can model for their children such skills as safe ways to manage these feelings in a manner that is not harmful to themselves or to others. Helping children manage their big feelings including anger, sadness and frustration by staying with them to help them figure it out and by providing physical comfort or soothing words. Parents and caregivers can implement these skills in concrete ways by showing their children unconditional love; telling children often that they are loved. Parents and caregivers can devote special time together with their children each day doing something that the child chooses. All children need consistent boundaries, rules and expectations that are carried out in a kind and calm manner. (www.preventioninstitute.sk.ca)
When adults have not learned these skills for themselves as children or have not had emotional or physical safety in their own early life and adult experiences, these can be difficult skills to model. By reaching out for help for themselves parents and caregivers can also learn how to be resilient in their own lives in order to promote and share these skills with their children. We are never too young or too old to learn resiliency skills in our lives. By learning to be resilient, caregivers and parents can help children to learn these important life skills that will help build long term coping strategies and to move forward through challenging life experiences.
Saskatchewan Prevention Institute. (2010). Helping young children cope with stress: Developing resiliency information card. Retrieved from:
Rella, M. (2014). The Attachment Roadmap: Assessing and treating parent-child relationships as the primary intervention for children’s troubled behavior. The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, Toronto.
Adapted from the Search Institutes Forty Developmental Assets. Forty Developmental Assets® are reprinted with permission from Search Institute, Minneapolis, MN. For more information please visit www.search-institute.org.
By Erika Wettlaufer MSW, RSW – Child and Family Therapist at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region