Factors that promote resilience in children

Resilience requires using adaptive responses and strategies in face of serious hardship, in order to improve emotional and social outcomes. Imagine that inside everyone, there are internal coping scales: at one end there are protective experiences and adaptive skills and at the other end there is significant adversity and disadvantage. Therefore, when a child’s health and development are tipped in the positive direction, they are able to cope with a heavier load on the negative side.

Recent scientific research has looked into the positive factors that can help to promote resilience in children, this provides effective strategies for children to cope in the face of significant disadvantage and pressure. Five of these factors include:

  1. The combination of a) supportive, committed relationships, b) adaptive skill-building and c) positive developmental experiences; working together to create a strong foundation of resilience. This can also help to develop key skills such as behaviour regulation  and adaptation to changing environments which help to buffer children from distress.
  2. The interaction between a child’s natural resistance to adversity and their relationships with important adults builds the capacities to cope with adversity.
  3. Not all stress is harmful, it is beneficial for children to experience ‘positive stress’ which enables them to cope successfully with life’s obstacles. However when stress feels overwhelming and the child is not properly supported, the scales tip towards negative outcomes.
  4. Children who are innately more sensitive than others tend to be more vulnerable to stressful circumstances; however these children also respond in very positive ways within supportive environments. Therefore, these children require responsive, supporting relationships, especially during times of hardship.
  5. Finally, remember, a child’s early life experiences lay the foundation for a range of resilience strategies, therefore developmental experiences early in life can strengthen this foundation.

In summary, it is important that children are provided with supportive relationships with adults from their family and community, experiences of ‘positive stress’ and real opportunities for developing adaptive skills throughout childhood. The aim of this is to build resilience so that the child can cope with life’s stressors and difficulties in a positive and adaptive way. Otherwise, the child may become overly stress, anxious, weighed-down and depressed which will lead to poor outcomes through adolescence and adulthood.

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