Resilience: What it is & How to get more of it!

What is resilience?

Resilience is a set of skills, attributes, and abilities that enable individuals to adapt well to difficulties and challenges.  This is something parents can help nurture in their children for greater success across all spheres of life: social, emotional, & academic.

Children seem to understand the meaning of resilience best with this analogy: Stress placed on a rubber band might stretch it to the breaking point.  Ideally, however, the rubber band will have the flexibility to withstand the stretching and slowly return to its original size and shape. Learning how to make an active effort and be flexible is fundamental to building resilience skills (Alford, Zucker, & Grados, 2011).

A person’s ability to take the initiative, believe in his or her effectiveness, and think realistically but positively also contributes to resilience. For example, children who can learn to compromise in their relationships with others are more apt to develop successful friendships. Students who are proactive – who aren’t afraid to seek out a teacher and ask for extra help – are more likely to turn a poor grade into an A or a B. Being proactive means setting goals, planning and problem solving, thinking optimistically, and building a more positive sense of self.

Listening to what we say to ourselves and others provides a clue as to whether we are being proactive, being reactive, or being passive. Things we say to ourselves are called our “self-talk.”  For example, if we are told that screen time has been reduced by half, our thinking and self-talk would be:

  • Positive and Proactive if we ask ourselves, “What are my choices for how to best use the available time?”
  • Negative and Reactive if we say, “That’s terrible! You’re a jerk! I hate you!”
  • Negative and Passive if we respond with, “I can’t do anything fun in that time” and then just give up.

A positive proactive approach involves taking responsibility and ownership for our thoughts, feelings, and actions so that we can work on changing them.

As parents, it is helpful to teach children about the private conversations that they have with themselves and how they are always thinking! Sometimes the thoughts are negative and sometimes the thoughts are positive.  We can encourage positive, proactive self-talk as well as behavior.

As children face a challenge or a problem, these 5 STEPS can help them deal with difficulty in a POSITIVE AND PROACTIVE WAY:

  1. Acknowledge the problem.
  2. Keep perspective that it is a specific problem,
  3. Keep in mind that the problem won’t last forever.
  4. Come up with a plan to make the situation better.
  5. Act on the plan.

Help children practice! As they do, this will build confidence and resiliency!

Written by Victoria L. Norton, Psy.D. at Linden BP. If you are interested in receiving Linden Blog updates with original articles about parenting, families, mental health, and wellness, subscribe using the field below.