7 Ways Parents and Caregivers Can Build Resilience in Children

By John Richardson-Lauve, LCSW, Guidance Clinic Program Manager

The children we see in our offices each week have a lot to deal with in their lives, as do all children. Like a butterfly emerging from the cocoon, children struggle. For some, the struggle builds strength and courage as they overcome adversity; others, it defeats. Research shows that the relationship of a child with a caregiver can greatly affect this ability of a child to deal with challenge and change. This skill is known as resilience.

Resilience is simply a person’s ability to adapt to change. When the winds of life blow around us with difficulty, struggle, loss, trauma and disaster, the resilient child can stay stable. We all know people who have a difficult time withstanding hardships and are more likely to struggle. The resilient child is able to stay strong and face struggles head-on.

Because life is full of challenges, the child who is resilient is more likely to be successful in life. How can we, as parents and caregivers, build resilience in our children? In Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., MS Ed, FAAP, and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guide, A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings, they identify the core of building resilience in children as the 7 C’s: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping and Control . Fosteringresilience.com provides a brief summary of the 7 C’s. If you build these 7 C’s in your child, you can help them with life’s challenges.

7 ways parents and caregivers can build resilience in children:

  • Help your child be good at things. Help your child know that he/she is good at things. Say it. Everyday.
  • Let your child know that he/she is not alone. Even when you are not there, he/she carries you inside. We instill this in our children by repeatedly saying over and over throughout life, “I love you.” Say it daily. Show it daily.
  • Teach your child right from wrong. Not just with your words, but with your actions. Children learn not from what we say, but from what we do.
  • Make sure that your child helps others. Volunteer as a family. In order to feel like the world is safe and secure, we must have confidence that others will help when we are in need; we never truly believe this unless we are willing to help others too.
  • Help your child build coping skills. Talk with your child about how you deal with difficulties in life. Help your child learn strategies to stay calm.
  • Give your child control over things. Let your child make decisions about things that impact him or her: what the family has for dinner, what music to play in the car or what he/she wears today. Give your child age-appropriate jobs in the house. A child who has a sense that he/she can control some things in life will have a sense of ownership and investment.
  • Lastly, these are words that every child needs to hear and every parent needs to say. They help connect you with your child. A connection with a loving parent is the primary foundation of resilience.
      • “I love you.”
      • “I am sorry.”
      • “I made a mistake.”
      • “I forgive you.”
      • “I believe in you.”
      • “Thank you.”

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