Is Your Child Resilient? This Emotional Life - PBS

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Adolescence / Blog

    Maureen Healy, MA, MBA

Maureen Healy, MA, MBA's Bio

With more than 20 years of experience, Maureen Healy has guided children and parents around the globe on the how of happiness.

Is Your Child Resilient?


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Every parent wants to raise their child to be strong. To be able to pick her or himself up after falling, shake off a poor grade at school or a mean comment from a "friend." The ability to do this and stay focused on your inner strength is an important lesson in childhood...and actually in life. With twenty years of working with parents and children, I have found there are certain things that resilient kids do and I share 3 key ones here.

Kids that are "more resilient" are almost stubborn. They refuse to believe that they can't do something and have this type of eternal optimism. Along with cultivating this optimistic outlook they focus on what's going right. Boys and girls that can see they have skills (for example, reading, singing, putting things together or figuring things out) are more likely to feel like if something fails today—that's okay, they can use those same skills to succeed tomorrow. (See how optimism keeps coming into the picture too!)

Along with positive expectations and ability to see one’s strengths, resilient kids are able to change and go in a new direction. They become "less stuck" or attached to a certain outcome. For example, Jacob was trying out for his fifth grade basketball team and he didn't make it. He told me, "Moe, this really stunk. But I am going to try something else. I am going out for the soccer team now!" You see, this is the type of resiliency that every child can develop as they learn how to accept change and go in a new direction.

So with that, I am going to summarize my 3 Tips for Cultivating Resiliency in kids:

1) Cultivate Optimism—Becoming a parent that looks on the "bright side" more often takes practice, especially as the mortgage is due, Grandma just died and you can't find the library books...but it is possible. As you become more optimistic in your thoughts, habits and eventually actions, you are showing the way for your child to do the same and this is a crucial part of raising a resilient child.

2) Focus on Strengths—Every child that can "see" their strengths no matter what the world is reflecting to them is inwardly strong. In my upcoming book, Growing Happy Kids: How to Foster Inner Confidence, Success and Happiness, I explain how to nurture this deeper type of strength (resilience) in children so they can move forward with positive expectations and see their potential, versus staying stuck in a false belief. So my suggestion is to keep nudging your children to "see" their strengths, develop them into skills and believe that things will work out for them, whether it is today, tomorrow or the next day.

3) Openness to Change—Kids that can "go with the flow" are developing a type of interpersonal flexibility that allows them to change, add new things into their life, subtract other things and keep focused on their good, despite any problems. Charlie, my neighbor, broke his leg last weekend and already told me "Well, I didn’t expect this...but now I have more time to read and will be 100% ready to get back on my skis next year!" This is resilience.

Strengthening Our Kids

Every child has the capability to learn how to become stronger from the inside out. Some boys and girls do need extra assistance though; they may be highly sensitive, lean toward the more negative, or "I can't do it" side of life, as well as get "stuck" in situations and feel that this is the worst ever. For example, like failing a math test. As a child's wise partner and guide, you have the incredibly important role to give them a "big picture" perspective, support them in ways that work for them in particular and realize that resilience, like confidence and inner strength, is merely a skill they need to learn to master.