Supporting Resilience

I play an important role in a young person’s life that makes a difference

Resilience is what allows people to cope with trauma and tragedy.[See: Harvard University. The Centre of the Developing Child: Resilience] The most important factor for young people in developing resilience is having at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, foster parent, caregiver, protection worker or other adult. These relationships can provide the responsiveness, structure and protection that cushion youth from the hard blows of life.

Depending on the circumstances, young people who have this kind of support are often able to turn hardship into learning that will support them throughout their lives. Everyone needs to figure out how to deal with adversity. Challenges build key capacities that enable the youth to respond adaptively to adversity. This combination of supportive relationships, adaptive skill-building, and positive experiences is the foundation of resilience.

A common set of factors has been identified that help children and youth develop resilience when they live with serious adversity. These factors include:

  1. supportive adult-child relationships
  2. building a young person’s ability to take action and to have control over their lives
  3. providing opportunities to strengthen the ability to adapt to challenges and monitor or regulate behaviours
  4. tapping into sources of faith, hope, role models and positive cultural traditions

Not all stress is harmful. Learning to cope with manageable threats is critical for developing resilience. In every child’s life, there are challenges and they experience manageable stress.

With the help of supportive adults, this “positive stress” can be growth promoting. Over time, we become better able to cope with life’s obstacles and hardships, both physically and mentally.

Resilience can be strengthened at any age and it is never too late to build resilience. Age appropriate, health-promoting activities can significantly improve the odds that a person will recover from stress-inducing experiences. Things like regular physical exercise, stress-reduction practices such as mindfulness exercises or yoga, and programs that actively build critical thinking and self-regulation skills can improve the abilities of children and adults to cope with, adapt to, and even prevent adversity in their lives.

See also:

  • Article: Resilience as a Positive Youth Development Construct: A Conceptual Review. Scientific World Journal
  • Tip Sheet – how to help your teen develop healthy relationships

Further Reading & Resources