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How Building Resilience in Your Child Starts with You

December 27th, 2018 by

I enjoy working with parents just as much as I do their children. Parents offer much knowledge about their child and their insights are beneficial to my understanding of their child’s needs. With that said, parents are an integral part of helping their child reach their fullest potential in therapy. Whether a child is learning to cope with depression, managing their anxiety or discovering healthy ways of relating to peers, parents are essential to journey.  Parents establish a foundation that shapes their child’s life and teaches them how to navigate their world. This foundation is made up of a family’s culture, values, and belief system, which all help to inform me about their child, including their resilience.

Let’s be clear, there is no perfect way to be a parent. This fact is so clearly reflected in the hundreds of books that have been written about parenting. However, one common thread can be seen throughout every parenting book is that what you model and teach will impact your child. Therefore, if you want to foster a sense of resilience in your child, you must first examine how you as their parent reflect resilience.

The American Psychological Association (APA, 2014) defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress”. Essentially, resilience is made up of the “stuff” that helps you bounce back. Well, what exactly is the “stuff”, you ask? One’s resilience can be influenced by any combination of social, cultural, psychological, and biological factors. For example, your religious beliefs or spiritual practices can enhance your resilience. Your strong connections to family, friends or social supports play a role, as do individual characteristics such as temperament and personality or coping style. Any number of these factors promote resilience and help you recover from stressful experiences.

Life will present many challenges for your child, big and small. As your child grows, they may even face multiple challenges at a time.  And, just when you think you’ve helped them handle one hurdle, the next is looming around the corner. As their parent, you may not always be able to protect them from these adversities, but how you help them to respond matters and is well within your control.  Building resilience in your child will help them to see perceived failures as learning opportunities. Rather than giving up too quickly on a difficult task, resilience can help your child to persevere until they are successful and/or learn to lean on others when they recognize they need help. Resilience can help your child to take healthy risks and to feel confident in their abilities.

In their “Resilience Booster” toolkit for parents, the APA offers several strategies that you can begin to practice at home. Among the recommendations provided is the importance of establishing a consistent structure, which can offer children more predictability and safety.  Parents are also encouraged to talk to their children about their emotions. Talking about emotions helps your child learn to recognize them and this will help them to later learn how to respond to their emotions in healthy ways. Also of key importance, is how you model healthy communication skills and how you practice healthy self-control and problem-solving. You can find more of the APA’S recommendations here. Start by practicing just one of these “boosters” and both you and your child will be well on your way on the path of resilience.

Sources Cited: American Psychological Association. The road to resilience. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association; 2014. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx

About the Author

Crystal Balfour, PsyD is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in the mental health treatment of children and adolescents. For the past 7 years, she has worked collaboratively with children, teens, and their families to address various challenges, such as trauma, grief, depression, and anxiety.

Beverly Therapists

Beverly Therapists