Building the Foundation for Resiliency Skills
If we think about what qualities we want our children to have as adults, most of us would put this quality at the top of the list—the ability to hold fast and steady during troubling times. By knowing how to navigate hardship without becoming bitter, by proactively addressing challenges, and by courageously confronting obstacles, children become equipped to dive deep into life’s gifts, enjoying their lives in the fullest possible ways—even during the inevitable times of life’s uncertainties or hardships.
During the eighteen-year parenting journey, we have many opportunities to help make all this possible for our children. The beauty of the design of the parent-child bond is that it is a natural way to build our children’s capacity for resilience, meet the needs of their growing brains, and instill in them resiliency skills that they will take with them into all aspects of their adult lives.
Children have needs to be met. When those needs are met, they grow and thrive just like a healthy garden when it receives what it needs. And that means, like plants, children become more hardy and equipped to weather the storms when they have their growth needs met. Bonnie Bernard, who has done much research on resiliency, has written, “…resiliency is simply the natural outcome of healthy human development in which the personality and environmental influence interact in a reciprocal, transactional relationship.” (1) As “master gardeners,” parents help child develop resilient personalities so they can learn to interact positively with their environments, even in the darkest of times.
The biologist Humberto Maturano reminds us that “love is the only emotion that expands intelligence” (2) Parental love is the constant that never changes over the years and that supports our wise choices for our children’s optimal cognitive, emotional, and social development. We build children’s capacity to rebound from challenges when we let our love lead our parenting practices.
One effective way is to observe what we love most about our children – their great questions, the way they treat their friends or care for their pets – whatever we know to be their unique gifts. Making up a list of these can help. Then we can make these strengths topics of daily conversations with our kids. This builds self-confidence and makes their self-respect blossom—a child who naturally respects self will have a firm foundation when adversity strikes. A bonus for us is that when we share in this heart-energy with children, time seems to slow down and we experience a deep, truly sacred connection with them.
Here are some other ways to nourish loving connection with our children from birth through the teen years.
Copyright © Gloria DeGaetano, 2009. All rights reserved. No reprinting rights granted without the author’s permission.
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