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  • Raising Resilient Children

  • Raising Resilient Children

    by Margaret Paccione-Dyszlewski, PhD
    Bradley Hospital psychologist

    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 our society.

    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 children.

    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 you!

    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?

    Additional factors that help build resilience are:
    • Social skills, including good communication skills, negotiating skills and the ability to make good decisions.
    • A supportive network that includes family, school and community.
    • Problem solving and thinking skills that help generate alternatives and solutions to problems.
    • Hope that odds can be overcome with perseverance and hard work.
    • Surviving previous stressful situations. Each time a young person masters a difficulty, that experience helps him or her face the next difficulty.

    Onward toward resiliency!

    Source:This article was originally published in Rhode Island Family Guide.

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