The Value of Developing Resilience

The ability to confront and overcome complex challenges is a vital life skill.  While some children and youth struggle to respond and adapt to change, resilience is a skill that can be developed.

In the first of a three-part series on Dr. Tatyana Barankin and Dr. Nazilla Khanlou’s work Growing Up Resilient: Ways to Build Resilience in Children and Youth, this blog post will discuss the importance of developing resilience.

Responding to Change and Challenges

Change and challenges are a natural part of childhood and adolescence.  Resilience allows youth to cope with these issues as they arise in life.  Furthermore, since resilience is a skill developed over time, confronting and overcoming problems makes us more capable and better prepared for the next challenge.

Resilient children and youth, having successfully navigated obstacles in the past, are more likely to be empathetic and sympathetic to other people’s troubles.  In addition, they are often more effective communicators because they have experience regulating their emotions, allowing them to express their feelings productively.

Resilience and Wellness

A youth’s mental well-being is correlated with their resilience.  According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, approximately one in five youth in Ontario have mental health concerns.  Therefore, developing resilience is crucial to mental health promotion.  Resilient youth are effective problem-solvers, create a more positive self-concept, and possess an optimistic outlook for their future.  These factors prevent adolescents from engaging in dangerous or risky behaviours, like substance abuse.

Resilience helps ensure a child’s life maintains a positive trajectory.  Resilient students are involved in meaningful activities which shape their identity as a person and act as a protective factor.  By mitigating negative distractions, children are more dedicated to learning and experience more success in the classroom.  As a result, resilient students grow up surrounded by a support network of adult role models consisting of coaches, mentors, and teachers.

An Ecological Approach

According to Dr. Khanlou, society often regards youth in a one-dimensional way – as a” ‘problem’ requiring a solution.” This approach, she contends, fails to recognize a young person’s strengths, contributions, and creativity.  Instead of attempting to solve a specific problem, Dr. Khanlou advocates for an ecological, integrative approach requiring the development of an inclusive and just environment to help all people flourish and meet their potential.

To help understand this ecological, integrative approach, the authors use an analogy of a tree.

Like young people, trees go through developmental stages as they mature and grow.  Various factors, including soil type, climate, access to water, amount of sunlight, and surrounding wildlife, impact the tree’s health and development.  Similarly, a youth’s family, environment, school, neighbourhood, lifestyle, socio-economic condition, and community can affect their well-being and growth.  According to the authors, “Resilient children and youth grow, branch out and flower when systems supporting their healthy development (such as well-functioning families and environments) work together.”

The next blog post in the series will discuss how to foster and develop resilience.

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