Helpful information for fostering resilience in children
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Prescriptions for Parents

Making Scientific Research Practical for Families

Teaching Children to be Resilient

Resilience – the ability to manage stress and overcome adversity – is one characteristic that has been identified as contributing to success in life. “Bouncing back after hardship” is an important skill to develop, since each child will experience adversities and difficulties, despite our best efforts to protect them. 

In fact, since children actually benefit from experiencing difficulties, it is important that we, as parents, allow our children to experience adversity and failure, rather than always protecting them from it. Children need to learn that things do not always turn out the way they would like, but they can benefit, even from difficulties. Fortunately resilience can be taught or developed in children by skillful parenting.

In this month’s newsletter, we will provide a few examples of how you can help your child become more resilient.

Infants and Toddlers

As parents, we want to protect and help our infants and toddlers through every situation, as we tend to view them as helpless and in need of our assistance.

However, by 9 months of age, most infants are capable of understanding language and expressing their emotions.

They are developing mobility and an ability to grasp a small object between their thumb and first finger. They are also becoming capable of doing some things for themselves – such as feeding themselves.

So, before you quickly step in to help your infant or toddler, ask yourself if she might be capable of helping herself – and then allow her to do so.

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Preschoolers are becoming even more capable as their muscles develop more coordination, their language skills improve, and their ability to problem-solve increases.

This is a delightful time for parents to ‘sit back’ and observe their children at play, remembering Maria Montessori’s philosophy that play is “the child’s work.”

Children actually learn how to help themselves by helping others. So, this is a great reason to help your child recognize others’ emotions or needs (empathy).
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Elementary Age

Character traits such as patience, kindness, gentleness, respect, and perseverance should be developing and children should be encouraged to demonstrate these traits.

1.    Take advantage of opportunities that will encourage patience (without resorting to ‘entertainment devices’).  “Let’s play a quiet game or see if we can sit quietly while we wait for our food.”

2.    Talk about the benefits of delayed gratification.  (ex) “If you save your allowance for the next two weeks, you will have enough money to buy the toy you want.”

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You are helping your adolescent prepare for life as a responsible adult, living outside your home.

This is the time to assure your adolescent will be prepared to face real-life situations. What skills does your adolescent need to learn? What character traits?  

For one, your adolescent should be doing his own laundry, making his own lunches for school, and learning how to manage his finances.

For two, don’t do tasks for your adolescents that they are capable of doing for themselves. (i.e. don’t pack their camping gear)

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Additional Resources

A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens:  Giving Your Child Roots and Wings.   Dr. Ginsburg lists seven “C’s” of resilience:  competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control.   
The Blessings of a Skinned Knee – Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.  Dr.  Wendy Mogel provides practical advice for parents based upon the teachings of the Torah, including avoiding overscheduling and overindulgence.
How Children Succeed – Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.  Paul Tough demonstrates that character traits such as perseverance, curiosity, and self-control are better predictors of success than intelligence.
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