Building resilience in children is critical to their success in life

Children who lived in stressful environments are given a second chance at success when parents and care providers invest in building their resiliency.

May 3, 2012 - Author: Rachel Meyers,

Updated from an original article written by

Building resiliency in children may seem like an impossible task, but its benefits far outweigh the struggle to achieve it. Webster’s dictionary defines resiliency as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.” Children and families experience stress due to situations such as poverty, community violence, parental depression or mental illness and medical illnesses. Michigan State University Extension says that children and families who experience these stressors can be helped by identifying strengths and building on resources.

According to the article “Building Resilience: The Power to Cope with Adversity,” when building resiliency, it is helpful to look at four areas: the child, the family, the school and the larger community.

First: The child

  • Children who bounce back after experiencing difficult situations were supported in learning.
  • Children could relate to others and saw themselves as part of the community.
  • Children developed self- awareness and regulated their feelings and had skills for letting others know how they felt.
  • Children also built relationships with parents, peers and caregivers.
  • Children also understood their family life, for example, that a parent experienced depression and it was not their fault. (Having the understanding that the parent had an illness helped them a great deal.)

Second: The family

  • The family was deeply committed and demonstrated strengths such as maintaining routines for the children, setting appropriate limits and engaged in positive parent and child activities.

Third: The school

  • Schools and healthcare centers provided help and support during crucial times; children built attachments and family members felt welcomed.
  • Schools and healthcare personnel had an understanding of adversity and resiliency, therefore, were a resource and were more effective in their work with families and children.

Fourth: The community

  • In the larger community in which families may have experienced community violence, unemployment, lack of essential healthcare and other resources, it was helpful to provide families with an understanding of what was available, sharing knowledge and experience with families to find the right service or information and locations for needed resources. These resources including health clinics, schools, places of worship and community centers.

Finally, parents can build their children’s resilience by:

  • Teaching healthy habits, such as exercising and eating healthy, bringing out the positive in children and family by celebrating important events and sharing fun activities with the children.
  • Building a strong parent-and-child bond by showing affection and responding to a child’s needs.
  • Reading together, will not only help language development, but also promote literacy, learning and overall knowledge.
  • Encouraging social skills like teaching children how to make friends and participate in group activities.
  • Practice a daily routine so children know what to expect.

Help children develop positive self-esteem by complimenting accomplishments, no matter how small, and note that practicing self-reflection on life helps gain perspective and problem solve.

Tags: 4-h, caregiving, early childhood development, family, msu extension, social and emotional development

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