Often in discussions about children, their experiences, and their mental health, one term often emerges: resilience.
As a concept in mental health, resilience refers to the ability to recover from difficulties or adapt to challenging situations. When applied to children, it suggests a natural capacity to bounce back from adversities. But why are children specifically labeled as resilient?
And are they actually resilient?
The Innate Flexibility of Childhood
Children are often in the process of learning about the world and themselves, a journey filled with constant adaptation and discovery. This inherent flexibility is a key reason why children are considered resilient.
Unlike adults, children are typically less set in their ways and more open to exploring new situations and adapting to changes. The childhood phase is also marked by significant cognitive, emotional, and social learning, allowing children to quickly absorb and adapt to new information and environments.
As children grow, they are continuously developing critical emotional and cognitive skills. Children’s brains are highly malleable, making them adept at forming new connections and learning from experiences, both positive and negative. Through various experiences, children learn and develop coping strategies that enable them to deal with different challenges.
The Role of Supportive Environments
The resilience of children is often nurtured by their environment. A supportive family, school, and community can significantly enhance a child’s ability to cope with stress. This support system provides:
- Stable Relationships – The presence of caring and responsive adults offers emotional security, which is crucial for resilience.
- Positive Role Models – Observing how adults around them handle stress and adversity provides children with practical examples of resilience.
- Ongoing Help – As adults, we don’t often have help if we run into issues. But children that are in a loving family do have ongoing help which can get them support they need to adapt and overcome adversity.
These are all reasons that people see children as resilient, and why there are so many people that feel that children can overcome many different obstacles in their way.
Misconceptions About Childhood Resilience
While children are often adaptable, it’s a misconception to believe that they are resilient to all forms of trauma or stress. Indeed, what we see as resilience may actually be just growth around adapting to their difficulties. For example, a child with anxiety that experienced a traumatic event may still be affected by the anxiety and the trauma, but has learned to navigate life around those issues.
Similarly, resilience is not a guarantee, nor is the way that someone acts as they get older necessarily going to be how they act as adults. Teens, for example, are notorious for their energy in a way that can make them seem like they’ve handled their childhood traumas. But once they are in relationships, or trying to navigate the stresses of the world, the effects of their childhood can come out.
Finally, one of the reasons that children can be seen as resilient is because their parents get them help. Whether it’s a therapist, a teacher, or a combination of different interventions, when they’re young, children are more likely to have people around them that help them through things than they are when they’re older. But their resilience is still based on that intervention.
If your child is struggling, it is always a good idea to seek out help for them. Learn more at Long Island Psychology.