How We Can Cultivate Resilience

Nov 5, 2020

How do we define resilience? To most, it’s the ability to get back up again after taking a fall. Fighting back after an unexpected hit. No matter the situation, resilience means facing hardship without losing face, and being courageous enough to take on change, especially unexpected change while still allowing yourself to be vulnerable. After all, what is vulnerability if not courage?

Depending on your history, resilience may be a version of everything I mentioned above. However you define it for yourself, resilience is an incredible quality sought out by adults and youth alike. Many parents look for this attribute in their kids, educators in their students, employers in their employees, and coaches in their team players.

Popular culture may have made many of us believe that positive thinking alone is all we need to change and adapt to tough challenges.

Recently, I began thinking about how one becomes resilient. Is it innate, or something that can be nurtured? And does changing our thinking patterns help?

I Still Love You

Recently, I read the book I Still Love You, written by the well-known resilience researcher Dr. Michael Unger, a Canadian family therapist. While I was reading, I began to appreciate the hope there is for all preteens and teens, no matter what their background, to live fulfilled lives with resilience as long as they’re given the right support.

With thoughtful prose and plenty of research-backed knowledge, Dr. Unger explained that the secret to thriving in hard situations isn’t just inside us. Instead, we need people and opportunities that will give us what we need to thrive. He believes that we can’t be expected to survive on our own, even with the help of positive mantras and other platitudes that people turn to in hard times. The idea that this is possible is a myth, something we say to our collective conscience to avoid the truth.

According to his theory, children are like seeds of a sunflower. If planted in fertile ground that is protected from irritants, they grow despite themselves. Cared for with love and attention, they can grow tall and sturdy, their faces pointed towards the bright light of a supportive nurturing parent, teacher, or friend.

Building Resilient Children

However, being problem-free does not make an ideal or interesting life. Nor is it reality. Being able to navigate problems despite the emotional and physical scars we carry is a sign of resilience.

According to Dr Unger, if we are to build resilient children who flourish in a complex, ever-changing world of new pressures, they need the following nine things:

  1. Structure
  2. Consequences
  3. Parent-child connections
  4. Lots and lots of relationships
  5. A powerful identity
  6. A sense of control
  7. A sense of belonging, spirituality, and life purpose
  8. Rights and responsibilities
  9. Safety and support

The truth is that not all families provide the key elements of nurturing resilience. This is due to a myriad of reasons, the most overarching being that society is neither fair nor just.

However, when children cannot get what they need from their families due to their circumstances then educators, mentors, and/or society at large should and must take a greater responsibility to provide the essential ingredients to instil resilience in our children.

This lends itself even more to the idea of building an interconnected community, and working together as a team to build our girls up to have the superpowers they need to succeed. A great way to build these types of community connections is by seeking support in the form of mentorship or guidance, to help equip our girls with the skills they require to continue shining brightly even in the darkest of days.

The clarity and simplicity of Dr Ungar’s principles are enlightening, but the task he’s suggesting is a tough ask. All the more reason for us to take a closer look at our own habits, so we don’t let the next generation down. Even the smallest of steps in this direction can have the most transformative effect on our youth.