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Want Kids To Be Resilient? Show Them They Matter

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Want Kids To Be Resilient? Show Them They Matter
Resilient kids grow up to be better at tackling adversity as adults.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

We're good in the best of times. But how about the worst of times? Life brings adversity. Failing a test, not getting a job promotion. Not to mention something traumatic like a death in the family.

Whether these challenges become speed bumps or roadblocks depends on a person's ability to bounce back. In a word: resilience. That's not to say it's easy. Resilient people feel distress. It's what they do with it that makes all the difference. They learn from it. They grow. 

Think of resilience as a muscle rather than a trait bestowed by nature in DNA — like the color of your eyes. Resilience is a way of behaving and thinking, and it can be developed. Parents can help kids build resilience. Here's what the research says. Start by letting kids know they matter. This is a key part of a stable relationship between a child and a parent.

Kids who are reassured that they matter — that they are important and needed — have better mental health, and they become more emotionally buoyant. Also relying on kids to a degree gives them a sense that they can trust themselves.

There actually can be a genetic factor to resilience, but it is not hardwired at birth. Studies show that supportive parenting can result in genetic modifications that biologically help a child cope with adversity. These genetic changes can be permanent or temporary.

Adults can develop a resilience, too, at any age. Experts say a big part of it is a state of mind. For example: Crises aren't insurmountable; they can be scaled. Accept that change is a part of living. Avoid blowing a failure or misfortune out of proportion.

It also is behavioral. For example: Set realistic goals, and take incremental steps: Ask yourself, "What's one thing I know I can do today that moves me toward my goals?" Take care of yourself. Exercise gets your brain and body ready.

If we're lucky — really lucky — we'll never have to test our resilience. But who floats through life without a few detours? If we handle adversity well, it makes us better. A little resilience goes a long way.