How to raise a resilient child

How to raise a resilient child

by Dr. Laura Markham
Aha! Parenting

Why is resilience a critical quality to develop in your child? Because a resilient child will become a happy adult. Resiliency is the ability to rise above adversity. Overcoming the challenges with which the world inevitably blocks our way.

Making lemonade from lemons, if necessary, and making the most of ourselves and the life we are given. Using the hardships of life as lessons from which to learn about ourselves, and to grow.

All children face adversity of some sort in their journey to adulthood, so resiliency is a prerequisite for healthy growth. By helping your children to develop resiliency, you vaccinate them against future difficulties.

Is there a recipe for resiliency? We know that many traits that contribute to resiliency are at least partially inherited. Children who are by nature more adaptable, more outgoing, and more emotionally even keeled have a head-start in developing resilience. We have even identified specific genes that seem to confer some degree of resilience, such as 5HTT, which influences serotonin, and OPRM1, which promotes attachment. But what our children really experience is always the interaction between genetics and environment. Regardless of your child's genetic make-up, you can give her a foundation of resiliency with her early experiences, such as healthy attachment bonding and positive interactions with adults that help the child develop an unshakable belief that the world is a friendly place that welcomes and assists them.

Many studies on children who survive adversity despite inadequate parenting have found that these kids had someone -- a teacher, a coach, a grandmother – who believed in them 100% and gave them nurturing and encouragement from which they could springboard. The question is, how are these youngsters able to patch together the little bits of love they are resourceful enough to find into enough of a security blanket to keep growing?

The answer, some researchers suggest, lies in their earliest relationships. Those with enough positive parenting, where they felt loved and valued, are able to use that to build on throughout life, even if their later building materials are scant. Every child needs to know that someone is in their corner, rooting for them. From that experience they internalize a sense of their own value and potential that cheers them on even when times are rough. What's more, it allows them to find and use support from outside, in the form of encouraging adults who help them along their path.

Sensitive parenting can even modify the way our children's inherited tendencies are expressed. One striking study suggested that shy children who receive excellent parenting are able to use their heightened sensitivity to others to become leaders, while shy children who are poorly parented may find that their shyness becomes insecurity which plagues them throughout their lives. Genetic make-up may be critical, but only when combined with environment is it destiny.

Resiliency is actually a constellation of traits that work together. Self-esteemperseveranceoptimism,competenceresponsibility, and emotional intelligence are arguably the most important. Each of these traits has its own section on this site.

Author bio: Dr. Laura Markham is the founder of and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings and her latest book, the Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook.

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