by Lisa Green, LPC
Resilience is a bit of a buzz word in the mental health community these days, and perhaps also in the worker community, but for good reason. Resilience is seen as the ability to recover from challenges, to bounce back in the face of stress and adversity- so it’s no wonder we’ve identified it as necessary to continue to function well in our high-stress and high-demand environments. Our children and adolescents are no less vulnerable to this high-stress environment full of transition, learning to function in a new culture, new experiences, social pressures, and even danger, not to mention the effects of parental stress that we can only shield them from so well. As parents and adults who support the young, it’s important to understand how to model and cultivate resilience in them, to build self-awareness and a positive sense of self that gives them courage to face difficult situations with hope and grit.
Let’s first note some of the signs of stress commonly seen in children and teens, indicators their coping skills and resilience need a boost, since at times they don’t have the insight or ability to describe what is happening internally when they are stressed. Actually, this might be true of many of us adults as well! Signs of stress include becoming more emotional, or conversely more withdrawn from people and even activities they enjoy. Some children under stress become defiant, angry, or even aggressive with friends, family, or others, perhaps having tantrums or fits with seemingly little provocation. They might have a hard time concentrating on schoolwork, and their productivity or grades may suffer. There might also be increased physical complaints- like headaches or stomach aches- that have no clear origin or cause. Increased illness, actually having more colds, viruses, or fevers is common as well due to the effects of stress on the body and immune system.
How do we combat challenges and the effects of this stress? Here are five building blocks for resilience, and ways to foster them in the children you care about.
An additional core aspect of this supportive relationship is for the child to have some individual time with the parent or supportive adult that is focused just on them, and the relationship, when you are not trying to teach, train, or correct them, but simply to enjoy mutually rewarding activities together.
Another good way to cultivate positive self-esteem is to proactively and consistently help your child engage in at least one thing that they enjoy and are good at. A child will have more confidence to try new things and courage to face difficult situations if they have experiences in which they feel they are successful on a regular basis.
The wonderful thing about resilience is that it can be learned and increased at any age. If you embark on building resilience in your children, you will be making a long-term impact on their ability to face challenges, recover from difficult and stressful situations, and have hope for their lives. A side benefit to helping build resilience in the kids you support is that it naturally also help foster more resilience in yourself- and everybody wins.
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