Questions and Answers About Resilience
In the May 14, 2001 issue of Newsweek, Dr. Sam Goldstein and I were interviewed about the topic of resilience. As a result of space limitations it was not possible for Newsweek to reprint all of the questions they posed nor all of our answers. We have received a number of e-mails asking how to obtain the questions as well as our responses to the Newsweek article. Given this interest, this article contains the full set of questions posed by Newsweek and our responses to these questions.
Question: Resilience seems to be one of those values taught more by experience, or exposure to some type of hardship. Is there a way of teaching children resilience without allowing them to be subjected to situations that parents may not feel good about?
Answer: The term resilience has typically been applied to children who have overcome difficult situations such as abuse, neglect, poverty, or school failure and gone on to lead satisfying, successful lives. These individuals possess what we call a resilient mindset. Such a mindset includes some of the following features and skills: they believe that there are adults who relate to them with unconditional love and are available for support and encouragement, they have excellent problem-solving skills, they demonstrate self-discipline, they are optimistic and recognize their strengths, and they view mistakes as experiences from which to learn. However, we do not believe that parents have to expose their children to undue hardship to develop this mindset since all youngsters will experience some stress and pressure as part of the process of growing up. We believe that if parents understand the components of a resilient mindset, then all of their interactions with their children can be guided by strengthening this mindset whether their children face major stress or not. In effect, we advocate that just as children are inoculated to avoid physical disease, we should strive to inoculate them for the challenges they will face and we can accomplish this by nurturing a resilient mindset.
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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