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Empowering Children Towards Resiliency

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 development;

  • Normalizing and accepting failure, struggle, and big emotions;

  • Encouraging healthy risk taking and independence.

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

2 Gray, P., Ph.D. (2015). Declining Student Resilience: A serious problem for colleges. Psychology Today.


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