Life is unpredictable – we often come across situations that are tougher than others; it is during these times our capacity to remain
balanced and adapt is tested the most. Issues such as job loss, financial problems, illness, natural disasters, medical emergencies, divorce, or the death of a loved one can all be overwhelming. The term ‘resilience’ is used to illustrate one’s ability to ‘bounce back’ (cope with or adapt) – a capacity to adapt to stress, hardship and the challenging circumstances, whilst maintaining a mental reservoir of strength.

Resilience does not eliminate stress or obliterate life’s challenges; it gives people the strength to tackle problems head-on, overcome adversity, and move on with their lives. Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges. This does not mean that they experience less anxiety, distress or grief than other people do; it means that they are able to handle such situations rather than become overwhelmed and dwell on the issues, sometimes even using unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with them. People who are not resilient are often slower to recover from setbacks and may experience more psychological distress in the long term. Resilient people, on the other hand still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but are able to work through such feelings and recover.

How do we develop resilience?

Some people are naturally able to adapt and work through challenges. Research shows that people are capable of learning the skills that it takes to become more resilient. A key factor that contributes to resilience is social support – having a sound support system in the way of family and friends goes along way…

Some other factors associated with resilience include:

  • Feeling positive about oneself and one’s abilities
  • Being able to make realistic plans and stick to them
  • Having an internal locus of control (the extent to which people feel that they have control over the events that
    influence their lives).
  • Having good communication skills
  • Viewing oneself as a fighter rather than a victim
  • Being able to manage one’s emotions effectively

Resilience in children

Developmental psychologists believe that some children develop resilience through natural process, while others need assistance (It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that those who require a little help will be less resilient over time compared to their counterparts).

Cultivating resilience is dependent on many factors and can take time. Furthermore, a child’s expression of sadness /emotional distress, particularly following a traumatic event, is normal.

Resilient children characteristically display the following qualities:

  • demonstrate a genuine interest in school
  • solve problems effectively
  • are assertive and capable of showing initiative
  • are empathetic toward others
  • are responsible and trustworthy
  • set and attain realistic goals
  • maintain a sense of purpose and a positive outlook on life
  • can act independently
  • ask for support when needed

Factors influencing resilience

The ability to seek support from family, friends, or even community-based programs when distressed is a common characteristic shared among resilient individuals. Parents and carers play a key role in developing resilience in their children.

Biological factors that impact upon resilience in children include:

  • General health: According to research resilient children acquire fewer childhood illnesses, have a robust physique, and maintain regular sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Genetic predisposition: Children who show a limited capacity for resilience may have parents with a history of personality disorders.
  • Temperament: Some researchers believe an infant’s easy temperament may have a positive influence on their ability to develop resilience during childhood.

External factors that impact upon resilience in children include:

  • Home environment: Evidence highlights that an organized, clean, and structured home is an optimal setting for the development of resilience.
  • Parenting styles: The development of resilience in young children has been linked to the establishment of rules and consistent expectations from an early age.

For further information read: Resilience (About Kids)