Raising children in today's world can be exciting,
terrifying, rewarding and disappointing?all at the same time. As parents,
grandparents, uncles, friends and teachers, we are struck by the complexity of
Helping children and adolescents avoid some of the pitfalls of their environment
presents quite a challenge. Substance abuse, school failure, negative peer
influences, alienation from their community, indiscriminant sexual behaviors,
gang activity and school violence are just a few of the risks awaiting our
Are there things we can do to help buffer or protect our
children from these risks? Some of the answers to this question are contained in
a body of research that was conducted in large part by the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services. This research is called the prevention literature, and it contains a
vast body of information on the causes of youth problem behavior.
The ability of a child or adolescent to protect himself or herself against the
risks of our society is called resiliency. The more a child or adolescent is
able to guard against risk, the more resilient they are said to be. Risk and
protective factors may vary considerably, according to a youngster's age,
psychological development, ethnic/cultural identity and environment. However,
research has shown that a number of factors contribute to resilience in young
people and these tend to apply to the vast majority of children.
The most significant factor contributing to resilience is a
strong relationship with a parent or caring adult who provides a nurturing
environment early and consistently. In addition to parents, this is where other
warm and caring adults in a mentoring role can make a real difference in the
life of a child. Grandma, coach, big brother, reverend, auntie?this job is for
A second factor is the feeling of success and sense of mastery that come when a
youngster becomes proficient at something of interest. Mastery of a skill
enhances self-respect and self-image. There has long been a common sense
awareness that children's time should be meaningfully filled and that it
benefits kids to be given a wide range of opportunities to develop skills and
have positive experiences. Why not encourage scouting, the chess club, music
lessons, organized sports or baking cookies?
Onward toward resiliency!
article was originally published in Rhode Island Family Guide.
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