I have been thinking a lot lately about the development of resiliency in children. Resiliency in childhood seems to be an area of great psychological research currently and if you start to search for it on the Internet a lot of information will come up. Resiliency is essentially how a person sees challenges and obstacles in life; and how that person rises up to meet those challenges and obstacles.
The first place I saw this concept recently, (which spurred me to think more about it), was in this free on-line ebook called “Developmental Signatures” at the On-Line Waldorf Library. I have mentioned it before in a back post, but here is the link to the 159- page book in case you want to read it for yourself: http://www.waldorflibrary.org/pg/focusSearch/focusSearch.asp?keywordType=general&keywordValue=developmental signature&page=1&showItem=1&ResourceID=1335
One thing that struck me in this book was the notion that the spirit, part of that three-fold organization of the human being that Steiner so eloquently lectured and wrote about, was treated in this book as having much to do with resiliency:
“The spiritual organization is strengthened to master problems through
experiences of coherence. It is an unconditional requirement for developing courage and security in life. In wellness research this is usually referred to as “resilience” (Opp 1999). This means the individual can meet the hardships and adversities of life because he or she views them not as unchangeable facts, but as challenges that must be met. Resilience is rooted in the knowledge that one’s own forces will grow in strength through conflict and that challenges provide opportunities for self-development.”
Doesn’t this make you stop and think about yourself for a moment? I mean, are you a resilient person? When life, parenting or homeschooling throws you a curveball, can you muster up your own inner will and initiate solving problems or facing challenges? How do you do that? How do you model this for your children? Do you see this quality in your older children at all?
In digging around, I found our friends at Resiliency Canada have already done quite some research into intrinsic and extrinsic pieces that make up resiliency and how parents can help. To see more, try this link http://www.resiliencycananda.ca
Intrinsic qualities seem to involve the child feeling safe enough to express who he or she authentically is, with the child feeling capable and having a sense of purpose (uh, do you all remember a back post in which I asked if your child was gone what tasks would go undone?), self-control, social empathy and compassion, and an ability to accept the fact that not everyone is like themselves in terms of spirituality, or race or socioeconomic background.
We can help foster these intrinsic qualities, in my mind at least, by:
Connecting with our children and loving them for who they are, even if their behavior is not what we are searching for in the moment. Behavior does not reflect upon the essential core of the child. I think we need to show children how we make mistakes and how we fix things but yet still maintain the authority of being the parent. Researchers also found a child’s participation in spiritual or religious activities was really important in developing these intrinsic qualities.
Extrinsic qualities, to me, are supported by things outside of the child: the family, friends, school life, communities and BOUNDARIES. Researchers have pointed out that this means as parents we should be modeling being healthy and functioning within the context of a family or community and having time to spend with their children.
Here are some other interesting links I found regarding resiliency in children.
Here are tips for parents to help promote resilience in older children: http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/cq343resiliencytips.aspx
10 ways to make your child more resilient: http://www.nasponline.org/publications/cq/cq343resiliencytips.aspx
The section on “Individual Factors” in this article are especially interesting: http://www.practicenotes.org/vol3_no1/promoting_resiliency_in_families_and_children.htm
The ResilienceNet Virtual Library: http://resilnet.uiuc.edu/library.html
A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: http://resilnet.uiuc.edu/library/grotb95b.html
I think Waldorf education and mindful parenting has a lot to offer in this area of creating resiliency for our children throughout the different seven year cycles of childhood.