Raising Resilient Children

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Resilience: the ability to adapt effectively in spite of serious threats to development. This is something that we all want our children to develop. We want to help them succeed even when the odds are against them. Research has found some consistent themes of what factors promote resiliency in children. These protective factors fall under 4 broad categories.

First is the child’s characteristics. Children who have some of the following characteristics are more likely to be resilient: higher intelligence, socially valued talents, an easy temperament, a favorable self-esteem, good emotional self-regulation, flexible coping skills, good conflict-resolution skills, confidence in their ability to reach their goals, a sense of personal responsibility for outcomes, persistence, strong moral character, a sense of meaning and purpose in their life, a desire to contribute to community, take pleasure in mastery, and use their time wisely.

The second category is the child’s family life. Children benefit from a warm parental relationship. A parent who provides warmth, has appropriate, high expectations, monitors the child’s activities, maintains an organized home environment, and uses authoritative parenting (positive discipline and no coercive tactics) are more likely to raise resilient children. Warm supportive sibling relationships also are a protective factor adding to resiliency.

Third is social support outside of the immediate family. Some children lack the support of a parent and can benefit from having a special relationship with another caring adult who models effective coping and functioning. Peer relationships can also be a protective factor if they are with rule-abiding peers who value school achievement.

The fourth and last category is community resources and opportunities. Youth groups promote positive peer relationships and pro-social behavior. Stable neighborhood residents and services relieve parental distress and encourage families and neighbors to share leisure time together. Schools that have caring teachers, extracurricular activities, and high-quality afterschool programs also add to a child’s resiliency.

For more information see:

Hoffman, D. M. (2010). Risky investments: Parenting and the production of the ‘resilient child’. Health, Risk & Society, 12(4), 385-394. doi:10.1080/13698571003789716

Berk, Laura (2010). Infants, Children, and Adolescents, 7th ed. Boston, MA.


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