Resilience: What it is & How to Cultivate it in Your Children and Yourself

Resilience: (n.) “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” (Meriam-Webster Dictionary). Being human means living with uncertainty, change, and hardships, and while we can’t protect our children, or ourselves, from these things, we can cultivate resilience. In a way, building resilience is like preemptive coping. It’s like going to the gym or eating healthily so your body is strong and your immune system is able to fight off the common cold or get you through surgery. Like anything, resiliency takes practice and repetition, ideally in times of lower stress.

Six ideas for encouraging resilience

“Collect Joy”

According to the researcher, and author Brene Brown, “Joy, collected over time, fuels resilience – ensuring we’ll have reservoirs of emotional strength when hard things do happen.” Savor the positive moments, as these happy memories or emotional reserves will help you get through the hard times.  

Encourage Expression

“Resilience is very different than being numb. Resilience means you experience, you feel, you fail, you hurt. You fall. But, you keep going.”

Yasmin Mogahed

I tell my clients on a daily basis that all feelings are OK! Allow yourself and your children to feel. Dance with joy, scribble in anger, cry along with a sad song…whatever helps you release. With children, identifying and reflecting back the feelings they may be having can help them build an awareness of their emotional states.

For example:

“I can see that you’re feeling sad because it’s time to leave your friend’s house and you were having so much fun…”

Teach Problem Solving Skills

Instead of solving problems for your kids, help them come up with solutions. Have a brain-storm session where any and all ideas are welcome (even super silly or unrealistic ones). Let your child try the solution they decide on and follow up with how it went. If necessary, help them choose another option to try. Family meetings are a great way to do this on a weekly basis.

Have Compassion for Yourself and Your Children

Have you ever lost your temper and yelled at your child or your partner? Or burned dinner? Most of us have! And we can learn a lot from our mistakes. After all, mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn!  Instead of beating yourself up, think of two things: what you can do differently next time, and all the times you didn’t burn dinner or you breathed through a challenging interaction. Children can be incredibly forgiving, so if you apologize, let them know how you were feeling, and identify what you plan on doing differently next time, you’ll not only be strengthening your connection with them, but showing them that we all make mistakes and that’s OK!

Cultivate Supportive Relationships and Ask for Help When Needed

This can look many different ways: joining a community group such as a church or service organization, engaging in hobbies with others, connecting with your child’s school or focusing on building stronger connections in your family. Ask for help when you need it (note: everyone needs it at some point)! While it may feel uncomfortable, I believe that asking for help is a skill that should be taught and applauded.

Show Faith

Showing faith means giving your child the tools to deal with difficult situations instead of solving them for your child. Children learn from the reactions of the adults around them, and when adults consistently do things for a child that they could do themselves, the child may internalize the message that they can’t be trusted. Showing faith doesn’t mean leaving your child alone to fail, but instead letting them know that they are capable and that you are there if they need you. 

By: Magdalen Marrone, LCSW