Resilience: Learning to Ride the Waves

I’d still do immunization, but I’d do it psychologically rather than biologically.

~Jonas Salk, 1985, on the 30th anniversary of his discovery of the polio vaccine

One of the most important characteristics we can encourage in children is resilience—the ability to bounce back from inevitable life stressors. Kids face numerous challenges today and we expect them to encounter many more during the course of a lifetime. Life doesn’t promise fairness, perfection, and ease. The highs in life crest like a wave and predictably, the wave crashes, hits a low level, and surges to a crest again. We’re sure to encounter patches of stomach-churning waters, a continual rhythm of up and down, up and down, up and down, or a glide on a smooth and relaxing stretch. Often, we wish we could ride that wave far and long or enjoy a gentle rocking, but that’s unrealistic and actually, not as beneficial for us in the long run!

Since the 1950s, researchers have been studying the ingredients that contribute to resilience such as genetic predispositions, parenting practices, exposure to violence, and socio-economic situations, to name a few. Resilience ebbs and flows—it is not constant from one day to the next. Some days you might feel ready to tackle anything, other days less sure and wobbly. Recently, there has been a focus on teaching kids skills to booster personal resilience. Are there skills you wish you had learned as a kid to help you cope when the journey gets uncomfortable? Such tools would remind you to lean back a little on the downhill, paddle harder on the upstream, reach out for a steady hand sometimes, and stay focused on your destination. The next 4 postings will focus on ways in which parents, educators, and medical professionals can take steps to foster strength and perseverance.  

Bon voyage!