Growing Resilient: What Your Child Needs to Get Through Tough Times - FairfieldMoms

By: Robert D. Keder, MD from Connecticut Children’s

Resilience is the ability to overcome serious stress or difficulty, and bounce back stronger than ever. With increasing pressures academically, athletically and socially on kids these days, being resilient is critical. In this series, Connecticut Children’s pediatric experts share keys to resilience, and how to help your child be resilient. 

We hear it all the time: Kids are resilient. But what does that mean, and why does it matter so much right now?

Developmental pediatrician Robert D. Keder, MD, joins the blog to explain.

Resilience is how your child can bounce back from this.

What’s been happening with COVID-19 and in the news is stressful in too many ways to count, and kids are impacted by all of it.  Kids are also very perceptive, which means they can’t help but pick up on the anxiety of the adults around them, even when we try our best to hide it.

Despite how toxic stress can be, there is good news: We can help our kids be resilient, even during these unusual (and surreal) times.

There are many keys to resilience.

  • Connection: Even in difficult times, children do well when they have stable, supportive adults in their lives, and meaningful ways to stay connected.
  • Routines: Routines provide a sense of safety, control and predictability. Helping a younger child master a daily routine that you set for them and later learn to develop and keep it up on their own is an essential skill.
  • Self-care: Children become more resilient when they know how to tune into their feelings, and learn how to manage worry in a healthy way. (Practicing mindfulness can help.)
  • Self-efficacy: When children believe in their own abilities and have a feeling of “I can do this,” they turn challenges into opportunities for growth. This supports the development of their self-esteem.
  • Family: Family traditions give children the connection and stability they crave. Even during uncertain times, they’re a foundation for hope and reassurance.
  • Mindfulness: When children learn how to focus on the present moment, they become better at managing stress and adapting to change.
  • Play: Play is fundamental to how all children learn, especially young children. It allows kids to make mistakes in a safe and comfortable environment and develop problem-solving skills.

Resilience is a skill you can help your child build.

Resilience is the ability to endure a significant stress and still thrive.

  • It comes from kids having the tools and confidence to solve problems, overcome challenges, pick themselves up from failure and emerge stronger, braver and more optimistic than ever.
  • Many children, especially young children, have a lot of natural resilience. But resilience can also be strengthened, like a muscle or a skill.
  • Kids learn skills for resilience – with help from adults – through a process called “scaffolding.” Just like scaffolding is used in construction to support parts of a building until it can stand on its own, we use developmental scaffolding to support children from the outside until they can emotionally stand on their own.

Resilience has both internal and external elements.

Just like building a structure, children have external and internal supports in developing resilience.

  • The single most important factor in a child’s resilience is having at least one strong, stable and supportive relationship with an adult. This is an external support.
  • The skills we teach children to use are internal supports.

> Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health is committed to building resilience in children and families so they can be better positioned to thrive in challenging times. Learn more about our community-oriented work.

Resilience, like many things, can come easier for some kids than others.

In the same way that some children are naturals at math, music or sports, resilience comes more naturally to some children than others.

  • If you have an easygoing child, they might adapt more easily to the changes going on right now.
  • If you have an anxious or fussy child, they might need a little extra external support like hugs, reassurance and teaching – but they can still develop internal resilience.
  • It’s important to remember: Regardless of a child’s innate internal resilience, we can coach and support them to develop resilience skills.

Where to start?

  • Click the “keys to resilience” links above for specific ways to help your child build resilience. New resources are being added every week, so check back regularly.
  • Check in with yourself, and be sure to take care of your own mental, emotional and physical health during this challenging time.
  • Be patient – with yourself and with your child. No one was prepped for life during a pandemic. But if you can show your child that you’re rolling with the punches, they’ll learn that they can too. That’s Resilience 101.

You’ve got this!

  • Parenting during a pandemic is not an easy process. Just by reading this article, you are already putting your child’s best interests at heart and being a supportive parent.
  • Someday, this pandemic will be over. And when you and your child look back on it, you may discover that you have an amazing ability to make it through tough times!

Looking for more?

***For more great information from Connecticut Children’s, especially as winter sports kick off, check out their recent article about “Avoiding Ankle Sprains” HERE. Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in basketball athletes of all ages. And all too often, many players have to sit most of the season out depending on how severe the injury.  This is a situation no athlete and their parents, understandably, want to face. Connecticut Children’s Sports Physical Therapy team discusses how certain ankle injuries happen, and three exercises to prevent them all together…For more info, click here.

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