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How to Raise a Resilient Child

October 3, 2017

Happy Child

Research shows that long-term exposure to stress can change both the structure and the function of the brain. In a society where even our youngest members are bombarded with stress and trauma, resiliency—or the ability to bounce back from hardships—has become critically important. At its core, resiliency is about counteracting the physical responses to stress and improving functioning and well-being. But what does resiliency look like and how can parents and caregivers help children develop it?

Resiliency is defined as how quickly someone is able to recover from difficulties. It is the ability to thrive even in the face of loss, trauma and hardships. Resiliency is not an inborn trait. It needs to be taught and nurtured. This means there are things that adults can do to increase the capacity of children to be resilient. Kenneth Ginsburg of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has determined that there are seven “C’s” that contribute to resiliency:

  • Competence—the belief that one is able to handle a situation effectively
  • Confidence—a child’s belief in his or her own abilities
  • Connection—having strong ties to family, friends and community
  • Character—a sense of morals and values
  • Contribution—offering support and assistance to those around them
  • Coping— the ability to respond to stress in healthy, effective ways
  • Control—the sense that your child controls his or her own outcomes

Parents and caregivers can impact each of these seven areas to increase the resiliency of the children in their lives. One of the most important factors for children in maintaining resilience and in moving through stressful events is the presence of at least one stable, nurturing caregiver. Having an adult to support and love a child unconditionally reduces the impact of chronic stress and traumatic events. Additionally, parents and caregivers can:

  • Provide support by maintaining routines. Consistency and routine can be very comforting, especially to young children and provide a solid foundation for children of all ages.
  • Emphasize the importance of self-care. Ensure that children are getting adequate rest, nutrition and exercise. Keeping their bodies healthy can help them deal more effectively with stress.
  • Make time for fun. Help children improve their overall outlook by giving them an outlet for feelings and energy through activities that allows them to express themselves and connect with others.
  • Encourage positive self esteem. Remind your child of things they do well and about the times they have gotten through tough circumstances before. Give them opportunities to practice and learn new skills and make decisions. This will help them develop both a sense of competence and confidence.
  • Foster positive connections with others. Help your child connect with other adultswho can provide nurturing and positive role modeling. These adults can be extended family, friends, neighbors, or you may want to connect them to a faith-based or service organization. These relationships can increase a child’s sense of connection to community as well as provide new ways of coping with stress.

This article was written for the October 2017 edition of Parent Source.