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Raising Resilient Children


VUCA, a term originally created by the US Army, has gained popularity in the business world and aptly describes the new world our students are facing - Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. In this new world, parents instinctually yearn to protect their child, particularly as we see the a rise in childhood anxiety, depression and most tragically, suicide. An overprotective parent, however, can hurt their child by stymieing their emotional growth and ability to overcome stressful challenges to find success.


How do you raise a resilient child, able to adapt to uncertainty and recover from setbacks? Resilience research suggests a U-shaped relationship between experiences of stress and setbacks in childhood and long term emotional well-being. Both too much adversity and a complete lack of adversity correlate to long-term mental health struggles. People who have experienced moderate levels of stress over their lifetime, with time and support for recovery between stressful events, demonstrated the most optimal outcomes.


A popular term for the concept is “stress inoculation”: by exposing children to the right level of stress they build an increasing emotional immunity and are better prepared to face future stress and adversity. An important key is that the stress children face is manageable, helping them build skills, networks and avoid catastrophic thoughts.


Recent studies on “what went right for resilient children” indicate that the most resilient children have developed problem solving skills, good social skills, a sense of purpose and belief in their abilities. None of this happens overnight - it takes years, and there are very positive things you can do along the way to support growing your child’s resilience.


1. Teach your child that all stress is not equal; a poor grade on a test is not the same as an active shooter in the school. Managing stress begins by honing our internal “alarm systems.”


2. These days social media plays an outsized role in your child’s day. Teach your child to be a savvy social media consumer, recognizing that most of the “perfect people” they are seeing, are just as flawed as us. Be aware of the sites they are frequenting and talk about how it makes them feel. Limit their screen time, get them off their phone and encourage them to spend time with friends who share positive values.


3. When your child is upset, be a supportive listener, don’t immediately give advice but let them know you believe they have the ability to overcome this. Some children may benefit from professional counseling for more coping strategies. Manage your stress in a way you want to teach your child. Model positive strategies such as exercising, using your social network and staying calm.


4. Encourage your child to participate in life - sports, academic challenges, social life - and accept they will face challenges and setbacks through this participation. You cannot protect them from all potentially stressful situations. As your child matures, when they make a mistake, let them come up with a solution before jumping in. This is part of the inoculation.


5. Make it clear that you believe in your child and their ability to become a great human being and contributor to the world. Be present for them when they need your guidance and grit your teeth when they make the inevitable bad decision. These strategies will ultimately lead to your child becoming a resilient life-long problem solver.




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