Resilience can be defined in several ways, but the one I like best is the "human capacity and ability to face, overcome, be strengthened by, and even be transformed by experiences of adversity" (from ResilienceNet, www. http://resilnet.uiuc.edu) . The reason I like this definition so much is it includes two critical aspects that define true resilience. They are to “be strengthened by” and “transformed” by adversity. Other definitions include phrases like “recover quickly” or “bounce back quickly into shape” without a clear picture of what that recovered state looks like. We all have the capacity and the choice to move on when facing adversity, but if we harbor guilt, resentment and anger we are neither stronger nor positively transformed through the experience.
As stated in the definition above, resilience is a “human capacity,” everyone has the inherent capacity for resilience. As parents, we can foster resilience in a variety of ways. When preparing our children for the transition of moving, building the character trait of resilience is a key factor in how they come out on the other side. When our children are in pain and hurting, our natural reaction is to help them feel better QUICKLY. But a quick recovery doesn’t always equate with returning to a healthy state.
The good news is that studies of children growing up in traumatic circumstances, either within their family or within their communities, show that over time outcomes for most are what researchers characterize as resilience. Protective factors associated with resilience can be promoted by parents and family members in a variety of ways.
Providing a nurturing environment that promotes the development of caring relationships is one of these protective factors that parents can foster. When children are moving, they can feel like these relationships are being torn apart and that they’ll never find a best friend/favorite teacher/trusted neighbor like the ones they currently have. Empathizing, supporting, and coaching them through this tough transition helps develop the skills that strengthen resilience. Unconditional love and support – even when your child is testing your limits – is critical.
Providing this support is a great opportunity for parents to hone those active communication and active listening skills. Sometimes kids just need to vent and appreciate the ear of someone who won’t judge them too harshly. Other times, they may need a little nudge toward problem solving. Either way, listening attentively, providing empathy, identifying feelings and asking open-ended questions help your children feel heard. Statements like, “wow, that must be hard,” or questions like “what would you like to do about that?” help your kids process information and, potentially, move toward problem solving with their solution, not yours. The problem with giving someone a solution to their problem is that is most likely the solution that works best for you, not necessarily them.
When we build trust in our relationship with our children so that, regardless of life’s circumstances or the decisions they make, they have our unconditional love and support, we give them not only a strong foundation but foster a key component of resilience.
For more information on building resilience, read about the International Resilience Project at http://www.resilienceproject.org/
For more information about the Moving Families Initiative, please visit www.movingfamiliesinitiative.com.