Building resilience for an uncertain future. (#3 of 12)
Updated: May 14, 2021
In times past, a child born into a family would have a trajectory of life more or less known and mapped out. Their childhood and adult life would most likely be in the same community, grandparents and other relatives would be nearby, and the path to education and the choice of profession were also largely determined by what was widely accepted and expected.
Social and ethical values were understood by everyone and were handed down, naturally, from generation to generation. Extended family, religious communities and society at large would help reinforce the norms and values underpinning relationships and the worldview prevalent at the time.
All of this is very different now for a majority of people around the world. Children are being raised and educated for a future world we don’t actually know much about. Values and principles to live by have also become more fluid. The role of the extended family and faith communities has in many societies become less prominent and influential, while there are many new and strong forces that tear at the fabric of the family and social cohesion.
What comes to mind when thinking about preparing children for an uncertain future is the concept of resilience. Resilience as it relates to an individual or a system (family) can be described as the ability to adjust to, or recover from illness, adversity, or major life changes; and the ability to respond to or recover from a crisis or disruptive process. Beyond the notion of elasticity and bouncing back to where you were before, is the ability to bounce back better: better prepared for future crises and challenges; equipped with new capacities to face difficulties with confidence; and knowing what to do and how to apply newly acquired strengths in different situations.
An important aspect of creating resilience in children relates to helping them develop the necessary coping strategies when faced with difficulties. There are 3 overarching ideas that can help in fostering these coping mechanisms.
1. Develop the ability to see the end in the beginning. When the family or an individual member is faced with a difficulty or set-back, look at where this experience may lead: new opportunities undreamt of before, stronger relationships, new strengths that can be applied in other areas of life, a new capacity to feel compassion for, and even help others going through a similar crisis.
2. Develop a growth mindset. The abilities and strengths of each family member can be developed through commitment, effort and perseverance and are not fixed traits. Holding a growth mindset impacts the ability of family members to learn from experience and to grow from setbacks, disappointments and challenges.
3. Remember the importance of encouragement. Give support and express confidence in everyone’s ability to do difficult things. Encourage children to try new things and avoid categorizing experiences as successes or failures: every effort leads to growth and eventually progress. Notice the strengths and new abilities you see in family members and point out the capacities they can further develop, thereby contributing to their confidence to face future challenges.