Nurturing Resilience: How You Can Prepare Your Child to Handle Life’s Challenges

Nurturing Resilience: How You Can Prepare Your Child to Handle Life’s Challenges

Nurture what is already here.  As I come out of the holidays, with all the pressure to shop, the family advice, and New Year resolutions, this mantra  has helped me to *attempt to* stay focused on relationship and on self-acceptance. Research on resilient children gives us parents and caregivers even more motivation to stay focused on this!

As parents we are constantly told what we can do differently, what we can change, and what we can buy or enroll our kids in so that they will become the best adults they can be. This is a lot of pressure and it takes us away from what science shows is the most powerful agent of change and of health--relationship.

Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child posted an article on Protective Factors that nurture resilience in children. Resilient children are those who, despite adversity and even trauma, come out thriving:

Children who do well in the face of serious hardship typically have a biological resistance to adversity and strong relationships with the important adults in their family and community.
— Center on the Developing Child

What if I told you that avoiding struggle and hardship was not what predicts a healthy child? Perhaps it would be a relief! It’s our biological drive as parents to protect our children, yet we will inevitably fail to protect them from all stressors in life. Though we do our best, our children may experience a death, divorce, loss, or unexpected change.

The research shows that a secure relationship with at least one caregiver can predict positive outcomes for that child! Your supportive, accepting and predictable relationship with your child creates a buffer for stress.

I would like to shift the perspective to one that allows us to protect but not to beat ourselves up when our child comes home talking about being bullied. Not to chalk it up as a “parent fail” when we get angry because our 3-year-old insists on zipping up his own jacket when we are already 10 minutes late!  I want to shift our focus onto protective factors that we already have access to:

Here are the things you CAN control, and thankfully we have research to back of their effectiveness!

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University provides us with this list:

  1. facilitating supportive adult-child relationships;

  2. building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control;

  3. providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and

mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.

Consider yourself and your community--what does your child have access to, or where can they gain access to these experiences? You may experience mental or emotional blocks when it comes to these suggestions--relationship is a simple concept but it can be painfully difficult. This is where therapy or consultation can help! You deserve to experience connection with your child.

My challenge to you--make a list of protective factors already at play in your family, and brainstorm changes you’d like to make! Feel free to message me with your thoughts or comment below. I plan to follow up with a post on the diverse ways we all nurture resilience through relationship.


Harvard University Center on the Developing Child:

Tronick, E. (2006). The Inherent Stress of Normal Daily Life and Social Interaction Leads to the Development of Coping and Resilience, and Variation in Resilience in Infants and Young Children. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1094(1), 83-104.

Papoušek, M. (2011). Resilience, strengths, and regulatory capacities: Hidden resources in developmental disorders of infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal,32(1), 29-46.

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