Updated: Jan 10
It's no secret that in 2021 mental health problems will continue on a steep rise for children and families. That is why Prerna and I decided to discuss resiliency, the ability to persevere in the face of adversity, for our first Facebook live event of 2021 (click the image above to view).
Resiliency is described by many as the ability to bounce back after facing hardships in life. It is a trait that we can develop, which is good news for those struggling right now. Tenacity is our lifeline for surviving the challenges of 2020, 2021, and beyond. Fortunately, these are traits that can be learned throughout life, whether your child is an infant, a teen, or a young adult!
According to Dr. Bruce D. Perry, one of the most renowned experts in the study of childhood trauma, resiliency builds when stressors are moderate and predictable.
Consider the stress of learning to play a new sport, for example.
- Learning a new skill is a stressor.
- Performing that skill in front of others is a moderate stressor.
- Knowing when and where you will need to show up for practice and games regularly makes the stressor predictable.
Therefore, it is likely that encouraging children to play sports should build resilience, as long as it is not causing severe distress to the child. As the parent, it will be your role to discern what is too much pressure, and this can be difficult. With practice, these decisions will become more manageable if we stay aware of our child's cues. Parenting is mostly an experiment and a "back and forth" of learning what works and what doesn't work.
We can also use Dr. Perry's equation about moderate and predictable stressors to determine whether or not an event will likely build resilience or break it down. For example, Covid-19 is a stressor that most would agree is beyond moderate due to its life-threatening nature. It is also very unpredictable and changes our routines and expectations daily. Because of these factors, the stress of Covid-19 is likely having a traumatic impact on humans, especially children without strong support networks and healthy coping mechanisms in place.
Many factors determine our ability to handle stress and overcome adversity. Resiliency is a trait that falls on a spectrum, with most of us somewhere in the middle. However, some people are set up from birth to be less resilient, while others have the advantage of developing more profound resiliency.
What contributes to our children's ability to thrive after hard times?
A strong support network
Secure Attachment Style
Overcoming mild-moderate stress in the past
Warm and supportive parenting (not tough love)
What are some circumstances that break down our ability to overcome adversity?
A history of traumatic events
Lack of control over one's life
Authoritarian, controlling parenting
Insecure attachment due to loss, neglect, and abuse
Unstable family life
Unsafe neighborhoods and schools