Achieving Full Potential -- The Science of Child Resiliency Explained

05/12/2015 03:35 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2016

Each person handles adversity and challenges differently, that much is known, but what is it that we know about the factors that come into play when it comes to developing resiliency? Why is it that some children are able to respond well to challenging situations and thrive, and how can we help children develop resilience?

In a three-part video series by the Centre on The Developing Child at Harvard University, they offered an overview of resilience, the science behind overcoming adversity as well as the factors that build resilience.

The first video discussed resilience as a concept and is defined as a good outcome in the face of adversity.

"The extent to which we are able to build capacities in all children early in their lives. To be able to deal with whatever bumps in the road or major obstacles may be coming down the track, that's an investment in building strong human capital and healthy productive adults," said Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D. Of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Not all children encounter the same amount of adversity, with some being exposed to more difficult life experiences than others. Some examples include mental illness, difficult family environment, poverty, struggling academic institution or violence being some realities some children come in contact with at an early age.

Resilience is the ability, skills or qualities of positive adaptation that enables one to master themselves and their reactions to remain balanced in spite of adversity.

The development of resiliency isn't immediate, it's built over time and is affected by not only the person's character but also dependent on the interactive process with one's environment. A child's level of resilience is a continuous balance between the positive and negative outcomes occurring in their life with respect to one's genes and personality, which results from their reality and daily circumstances (i.e. health, family life, financial stability, etc.).

As a child's positive experiences accumulate, they learn coping skills that aid in stress management making an emphasis on positive outcomes easier. At the heart of the process is the supportive network and relationships they have, particularly the family, caregivers and larger community, who play a supportive role and contribute to child development.

Positive interactions enable children to build coping skills and adaptive abilities like how to self-soothe, delay gratification, regulate behaviour and more. It is during stressful times that people tap into the lessons learned that allow you to manage challenges.

The key to building resilience in children is to equip community members with the right skills, tools and support mechanisms for more positive outcomes for children. Below are some important steps factors to consider, including quality childcare, parental coaching, stronger schools and much more.

For parents who want to build resilience in young children, below are some things we can do to provide support in young children. These things include:

1. Don't over accommodate. We live in a world where parents want to give their children comfort and protection. It's important to realize that over protection fuels anxiety and fear. Eliminating all risk and giving all comforts rob children of learning resiliency.

2. Make strong connections. Encourage children to connect with others and teach basic skills of empathy and understanding. This will foster the establishment of a strong family and social network that will provide support for them during difficult times.

3. Empower through helping. Children will benefit from helping others. By engaging children in age-appropriate good-will activities, they will experience the benefits of helping others and asking for help when necessary.

4. Nurture a positive sense of self. Help your child appreciate themselves and those around them. Make every opportunity of strength a lesson that shows your child they are able to handle difficult situations. This will build character and strength that will aid in handling future challenges.

5. Maintain a routine. Sticking to a routine can be a source of comfort the predictability and structure offers security, especially in younger children. Encourage your child to develop their own routines and coach them on how to maintain flexibility within that structure.

6. Accept that change is inevitable. While structures are important, children need to know that life will always have unexpected turns. Change can often be scary but when a child sees that it is part of life and offers various opportunities, children will be much more adaptive with stronger coping skills.

By promoting resilience in children, despite the odds, more children can grow up to be balanced and productive members of society.

With the right foundation, children grow up to have healthier and happier relationships, become more successful in the different aspects of their lives. Resilience is one of the factors in helping children to reach their full potential.

The importance of resilience is discussed in much more detail in my upcoming book, "Reeboot Your Mind".

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