The Secret of Raising a Resilient Child

Photography:Rachel Burt Photography

By Dr. Laura Markham

Sometimes life asks us to handle so much challenge, so much change, so much loss, that it leaves us exhausted and ready to crack. (Sound familiar?).

But some lucky people are less stressed by stress. Some of us have more ability to maintain our positivity, to regain our equilibrium, to suffer major setbacks and still get up the next morning determined to try again. We call this resilience. 

Where does resilience come from? Certainly, some of it is genetic: hard-wired. And we can all re-train our brains to give us more resilience. But to help your child develop a resilient inner core, start with the parent-child relationship. 

As Dr. Edward Hallowell says, “Resilience comes from knowing that you never have to be alone …. If you feel connected, you will always be able to deal with adversity. The skills we need to deal with adversity begin with a feeling of ‘I can handle this’ It is a feeling of ‘No matter what happens, I can find a solution’; a feeling of ‘I have dealt with hard times and come out fine before’; a feeling of ‘Even when I feel lost, I always have somewhere to turn.'” 

There’s a common misconception that children develop resilience by failing. Actually, children develop resilience by dealing successfully with failure. 

When children have the support to get up and try again, they learn they can survive adversity and come out okay. When a child doesn’t have that support, all he learns from failing is that he’s the kind of person who fails. 

So what kind of support can help your child turn set-backs into the confidence that no matter what happens, she can handle it?  

1. The experience of disappointment and failure — but ONLY when accompanied by your care and understanding 

The security of knowing that someone is watching out for her is what allows a child to explore, to risk bumps, disappointment and hurt feelings, and to come out the other side. So don’t try to talk her out of her feelings when she suffers a big disappointment. Instead, empathise with her unhappiness and honour her grief. With your support, she’ll feel those big emotions and move past them (instead of freezing them inside, which locks in that feeling of victimisation).

She learns from experience that she can tolerate any emotion she feels and come out the other side, and that even when times are hard, the sun will come up the next day and give her another chance.  

2. The experience of solving problems 

Every child faces problems every day. Hopefully, working through those problems will give your child the confidence to face the even tougher challenges in his future. So when your child encounters a challenge, he needs to know that you’ve got his back. But your job isn’t to solve the problem. It’s to support your child so that he feels empowered to tackle the challenge himself. So when your child gets into a jam, manage your own anxiety and resist jumping in to rescue. Instead, support him to brainstorm possible solutions and their outcomes. “Hmm… yes, you could do that. I wonder what might happen then?” 

See next page for more…
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *