The Development of Resilience
Let’s face it; these are stressful times with stay-home quarantine and COVID 19. Resilience under stressful circumstances is not often easy to come by. Many parents feel that their own parents did not understand them, being preoccupied with themselves. Unfortunately, this is a more common story than we would like to think. Rising above certain disadvantages or setbacks requires the ability to manage our internal resources to contend with the difficulty we are facing. We cannot necessarily eliminate adverse conditions in life but we can certainly adapt and adjust to our challenges.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back in the face of significant life challenges or adversity and thrive despite negative life experiences. It is more than coping (which can be seen as a protective factor of managing stressful circumstances); resilience has to do with recovering and overcoming adversity to actualize a positive outcome. Molly (from chapter 6, pp. 91-92) is a good example of many parents who develop resilience after learning how to use child development principles with her children.
Molly was faced with challenges in her life that were certainly unexpected when her second child was diagnosed with sensory integration disorder (SID). The advice from other adults, to just let her son toughen-up by crying it out, lacked empathy for what she and her son were facing due to his neurological difficulties processing incoming information in his brain. Learning how to focus on her son’s strengths while also caring for his needs was a turning point in Molly’s parenting and in her personal development. Her parent’s model of parenting wasn’t what she wanted to follow. She said that knowledge about child development was critical to understanding how important security was to her son—even in his stress. Molly decided that during his early developmental years, he needed her to be more present. She found that her son did so much better when he felt secure with her. As time went on, Molly and her husband acquired the skill to supportively provide security, positive attachment, and emotional nurturing by being trustworthy parents even when their son was screaming.
As a result of staying connected with her son’s needs she said that she grew in confidence and experienced inner-resilience. She said, “I remember what I need to do right now in this moment to help this child heal. I know I am doing the right thing. I just keep picking up and going on. I have stamina, I stay with it.” Molly went back to work after her children grew to high-school age. “I still reflect because I work with children every day.” She continues to nurture other children in the school where she works as a school administrator and described, “Day in and day out at work with the children who come to my office.” She said that after listening to the other teacher’s concerns, the first thing she asks herself is, “what age is this child, what was the trigger, and what does this child really need?” Molly said that there are always insights when she is able to see the child in the moment. “I find that it’s easier for me to be compassionate with myself, with the children, and with other adults when I question what a child really needs.”
Resilience in children depends upon the availability, consistent contact and support from parents, educators, and other primary caregivers:
- recognize and respect differing strengths and individuality in each child
- implement appropriate relational expectations and goals
- provide emotional support and continue to develop trust
- have consistent daily quality contact with each child—make sure each child knows that their love counts
- it is also important to keep a long-term perspective and consider the effects of ongoing stress
Physical and mental health are more than an absence of pathology. Parenting style is strongly related to adaptive (or maladaptive) outcomes in children’s development. Studies have shown that the positive influence of parents, primary caregivers (and other role models) plays a major role in children developing positive adaptation and resilience in the face of stress and adversity. It turns out that children’s self-control has more to do with the parenting style to which they are exposed than any other factor in their young lives.
Nonetheless, a child’s behavior is different in different environments. It is quite likely that a child’s behavior at home is reactive to the parents while different in the school environment. Educators who nurture the development of trust serve as role models that can promote self-control and resilience—especially when educators are backed by parental support in the home. We now know that adults benefit as much as children when we care for and nurture the development of resilience in our children and students.
Josette Luvmour, PhD and Ba Luvmour, MA
Luvmour, J. (2017). Grow Together: Parenting as a path to well-being, wisdom, and joy. N. Charleston, South Carolina: Create Space Publishing.
Watson Soward, K. (2006). Resilience and self-control in at-risk preschool children: influences of maternal parenting style and self-control. Unpublished Dissertation, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara.
You can learn more about Natural Learning Relationships holistic child development in courses at the Transformative Learning Foundation and at Antioch University, where Josette and Ba teach a foundation course in Natural Learning Relationships and the Evolution of Consciousness in the Individualized MA program in Social Sciences, Concentration in Transformative Learning Communities.
Their books are available on Amazon: