Empowering Children Towards Resiliency
By Jacqueline King-Presant, M.Ed.
When Thomas Edison was asked how he felt after
trying and failing to invent the light bulb 10,000 times, he reportedly
said “I have not failed, I have learned 10,000 ways not to invent the
light bulb.” In this example, it was perseverance and an ability to fail
gracefully and gain the learning that failure brings that lead to a
major technological innovation. That’s resilience.
Resilience is a mindset which encompasses hope,
courage, perseverance, acceptance, flexibility, self-determination, and
making the best out of any situation. It is the necessary factor in
successfully navigating the bumps and setbacks in the road of life, so
that one can move forward with wisdom and growth. It is also the factor
which determines whether a traumatic event will lead to disempowerment
and defeat or post-traumatic growth (coming out even stronger than
before from a traumatic event). 1
In fact, studies show that resilience – namely
emotional resilience – is the single biggest factor people who live to
100 have in common. 1
Resiliency leads to (and depends on) confidence,
independence, knowledge, problem solving skills, and an overall positive
yet realistic attitude towards life. Unfortunately however, resilience
is on the decline in children and young adults today, according to
recent studies. 2 There are many social and educational trends that
psychologists and sociologists have linked with this occurrence.
This has parents asking what they can do to
support their children’s resilience. Of course modeling resilience and
telling or reading inspiring stories that demonstrate this quality can
help; but is this enough? Personally, I think there is more we can try
to implement into our lives to support our children’s resilience.
Some things that parents can focus on (which will
be explained in greater detail in follow-up articles) when helping
children to gain resilience are the following:
Understanding and supporting overall
Normalizing and accepting failure, struggle,
and big emotions;
Encouraging healthy risk taking and
Through understanding, trusting, and supporting our
children’s natural paths of development, we ensure that their needs are
met so that they have a firm foundation to act from during difficult
situations. Through helping children to normalize and accept failure,
struggle, and big emotions as well as encouraging healthy risk taking
and independence, we help them to develop the skills and confidence they
will need for greater challenges and setbacks later on.
While much of the “how” aspect of these ways of
supporting our children may seem like common sense, often parents find
that they need more information and guidance in order to fully support
their children towards resilience. Others find that some of their
previously held belief systems and methods just aren’t holding up; they
find that the more effective ways of supporting their children’s
valuable attribute of resilience takes a little work in the beginning –
but then becomes second nature. Parents also find that through
supporting resilience, other aspects of their child’s lives as well as
their parent-child relationship is also strengthened. Stay tuned for
future articles that will provide further help and resources.
This is the first in a series of
four articles on this topic by Jacqueline King-Presant, M.Ed., a child
development specialist and consultant. The other articles are:
Resiliency is Natural: Supporting Children’s Developmental Stages and Needs Helps Them Achieve Resilience
Supporting Children's Emotional Intelligence for Resilience
Supporting Independence, Risk Taking, Perseverance, and Problem Solving for Resilience.
1 Chopra, D., M.D. & Tanzi, R.E., Ph.D. (2012). Super Brain. New
York: Harmony Books
Gray, P., Ph.D. (2015). Declining Student Resilience: A serious problem
for colleges. Psychology Today.