NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Resilient Children

Resilient Children


                At times we idealize childhood as a carefree time, but being young is no shield against the emotional hurts and traumas many children face. Children can be asked to deal with problems ranging from adapting to a new classroom to bullying by classmates to death of a parent or crime in their neighborhood or even abuse and poverty at home.  Childhood can be anything but carefree.

                Why are some children and some adults able to rise above difficulties and go on to lead an emotionally balanced, enjoyable life? The ability to thrive despite these challenges comes from being resilient.  Resilience — the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy and other significant sources of stress — can help our children manage stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.             

                We all can develop resilience, and we can help our children develop it as well. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned over time. Following are tips to building resilience.

  • Make connections
    Teach your child how to make friends, including the skill of empathy, or feeling another's pain. Encourage your child to be a friend in order to get friends. Build a strong family network to support your child through his or her inevitable disappointments and hurts. Connecting with people provides social support and strengthens resilience.
  • Help your child by having him or her help others
    Children who may feel helpless can be empowered by helping others. Engage your child in age-appropriate volunteer work, or ask for assistance yourself with some task that he or she can master.
  • Maintain a daily routine
    A routine can be comforting to children, especially younger children who crave structure in their lives. Also encourage your child to develop his or her own routines of reading before bedtime, spending time with reliable adults or finding quiet in nature.
  • Teach your child self-care
    Make yourself a good example, and teach your child the importance of making time to eat healthy foods, exercise and rest. Make sure your child has time to have fun, and make sure that your child hasn't scheduled every moment of his or her life with no "down time" to relax.
  • Move toward your goals
    Teach your child to set reasonable goals and then to move toward them one step at a time. Moving toward that goal — even if it's a tiny step — and receiving praise for doing so will focus your child on what he or she has accomplished rather than on what hasn't been accomplished, and can help build the resilience to move forward in the face of challenges.
  • Nurture a positive self-view
    Help your child remember ways that he or she has successfully handled hardships in the past and then help him understand that these past challenges help him build the strength to handle future challenges.  Teach your child to see the humor in life, and the ability to laugh at one's self.
  • Accept that change is part of living
    Change often can be scary for children and teens. Help your child see that change is part of life and new goals can replace goals that have become unattainable. In school, point out how students have changed as they moved up in grade levels and discuss how that change has had an impact on the students.

                Developing resilience is a personal journey and you should use your knowledge of your own children to guide them on their journey

                While it’s not possible to protect our children from the ups and downs of life, it is possible to provide them with the tools they need to respond to the challenges of adolescence and young adulthood and to navigate successfully in adulthood. Despite our best efforts, we cannot prevent adversity and daily stress; but we can learn to be more resilient by changing how we think about challenges and adversities.

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