Developing Resiliency in Children


By Niki Walls, MSW, LSW, Youth First, Inc.

Resiliency is something many of our children utilize unknowingly every day. So, what exactly is resiliency? Resiliency is building immunity to stressors and adversity; or in other words, the many ways we can adapt and learn from stressful experiences. Resiliency is more of an adaptive skill that is trainable and less of a fixed personality trait.

Developing resiliency can help students stand up to bullies, lose a competitive event with grace, say no to negative influences, and even cope with traumatic experiences like abuse or neglect. The adverse childhood experiences that some children face do not discriminate by age, gender, or location, although certain populations are more vulnerable. Although we all face stressors of various kinds, the way we are taught to cope with those stressors determines our ability to overcome adversity.

Resiliency can be tricky to measure because not all stressful events are the same. The way children respond to stressors can influence the severity of the stressor itself. Some situations may seem mild to some and very serious to others. Sometimes stressors are short lived while others last quite a long time.

The way children learn from stressful experiences is a key part of building resiliency. They must be able to grow and adapt from the stressful events they face instead of accepting defeat. Focusing on the growth perspective and positive circumstances will help them improve their ability to bounce back from stressful situations. Working on developing appropriate coping skills and mindfulness strategies is also important when considering resiliency development.

In the past few years, our children have faced multiple stressful events. They have lived through a pandemic and the challenges it brought with it, such as virtual learning, heightened anxiety, financial hardships, loss, and more. Children have proved their resiliency in ways adults had not prepared them for. While it has been challenging, children have been able to grow and strengthen their resiliency despite negative circumstances.

The world can only hope children are able to look back on some of the difficult events that unfolded in the last few years and recognize the ways they became stronger. As adult role models, we can model resiliency for our children by managing our responses to these types of stressful events. The more we respond capably to adversity in front of children, the more we increase their resiliency and the likelihood they grow to become healthy, well-adjusted young adults.