September 18, 2007

How Families Can Nurture Resilient Children

There is a good article on the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health web site on how families can nurture resilience in children. The article is written for mental healthcare workers - but it has valuable points for all families. Following is a brief excerpt. We encourage you to read the entire article (see link at end of page).

“All families with appropriate supports have the potential to encourage the healthy development and resilience of their children,”

But what exactly is resilience, and how can professionals working with families help them nurture that quality in their children?

Resilience is now recognized as the outcome of a subtle interplay of protective factors inherent in individuals, families and the community.

“Family protective factors are, in fact, the main aspects that define a good family life,” says Dr. Tatyana Barankin, a psychiatrist in the Child, Youth and Family Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. Here, Barankin and other experts offer tips for how professionals working with families can help them enhance their children’s resilience.

Promote effective communication. Families foster resilience when they allow all members to constructively express their emotions, points of view and concerns and make them feel they are listened to with empathy, says Barankin. "Clinicians sometimes have to explain to parents that children have the right to express their feelings and be listened to," says Barankin.

Help families develop problem-solving skills. “Clinicians can act as mediators to help families resolve conflicts,” says Barankin.

Teach parents an authoritative parenting style. “Research has shown that parenting style, not family structure, is one of the main determinants of children’s well-being,” says Bonnie Benard, a senior program associate at WestEd, a U.S. educational research and human development organization. Psychologist Laurence Steinberg coined the term “authoritative” to describe the parenting style most likely to foster children’s resilience. Authoritative adults:

* are warm, nurturing and loving, even when expressing disapproval of a child’s behavior;

* provide firm, clearly defined rules and the reasons for the rules, while being flexible when they need to be;

* discipline constructively, fairly and consistently, recognizing that discipline is a form of teaching, not punishment;

* have appropriate expectations of their children, in keeping with their children’s physical, emotional and intellectual stage of development; and

* praise their children for their efforts (what they try to do) not their accomplishments (which may be a result of luck or because the task was easy for them).

Parents need to know that praising their child’s efforts helps build confidence, self-esteem and resilience.

Encourage families to spend time together. Clinicians can encourage family members to set aside time to enjoy leisure time together.

Support involvement of extended family and community. Research has shown that the care and support of just one nurturing adult – a parent, other relative, teacher or mentor – can make a dramatic difference in a child’s life.

Help families develop a sense of belonging and security. Children tend to grow up resilient when they feel a sense of belonging and security.

Promote shared beliefs. Shared beliefs help members make meaning of crisis situations, facilitate a hopeful outlook and provide transcendent values,” says Walsh. These can be encouraged through a deep personal connection with nature, music, the arts or to a higher power.

Read the Full story: How to Help Families Nurture Resilient Children

Additional Reading:

The Long-term Impact of Stress During Childhood on Brain Development

Childhood Mental Health Maximizing Activities


It seems so ironic that all the people I know from broken homes, hardships, and even mothers with schizophrenia all turned out strong and resilient.

And my parent's generation - people working since the age of 4, surviving the Great Depression, parents dying young from TB - again - strong and resilient people who became self-motivated, hard working, "salt-of-the-earth".

And now-a-days we have to have experts telling parents how to "raise" children to be resilient.

Once upon a time, it was our hardships that made us strong and resilient. Of course - not all. Even back then, some kids ended up in a life of crime or on the streets... But statistically, most did not.

It is confusing, isn't it?


Posted by: Naomi at September 20, 2007 04:29 PM

i still feel the effects of the hardships from my childhood. my emotional life is in turmoil. my parents never knew the abuse i suffered. and, they never really knew me.

Posted by: martin at October 2, 2007 04:13 PM

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