Helping Children to Thrive, Not Just Survive

By Hanley Foundation Prevention Specialist Shannon Prieto

Everywhere we look, we see success and failure. From every walk of life, some seem to grab the world by the horns and show it who’s boss, and alternatively, others seem to be defeated by the experience that they have lived. Why is this? Was it their upbringing? Could it have been their neighborhood? Perhaps it was their social connections?

While all of these aspects have a profound impact on one’s life, society as a whole tends to look at one piece of the puzzle: the parents.

People often blame parents for someone’s inabilities to rise to social order standards.

But yet, we also applaud parents for their child’s accomplishments. We may hear, “If his parents would have disciplined him more, he wouldn’t be like this” or possibly, “What a nice young man. His parents sure did raise him right.”

But what about those homes where all but one child seems to become a pillar in the community or vice versa?

The truth is, according to the socialization theory of development (Harris, 1995), a child’s growing personality has less to do with their upbringing and more to do with the influences of their peers.

But parents, don’t sigh in relief just yet. As noted in Psychology Today, our children’s upbringings and genetics still account for approximately 50% of their behaviors. It is up to adults to instill positive attributes into today’s youth.

No matter what familial, social, and environmental factors influences there, we can always raise the resilience in our youth and help them thrive, not just survive. As Tony Robbins once said, “We are meant to be the creators of our lives. Anything we can dream about, we can create. We’re not made to merely survive – we’re made to thrive.”

How can we help achieve this in our youth today with all of the obstacles and crises they face? The American Psychological Association provides ten tips for building resilience in children and teens:

  1. Make connections
    Provide your child with healthy environments where they can make friends. Church and clubs are a great way to meet like-minded families.
  2. Help your child by having him or her help others
    Volunteering can give children and adults alike a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Find age-appropriate volunteer opportunities that interest your child. It can be a small as food donations or spending time with the elderly. 
  3. Maintain a daily routine
    Children need routines and stability. Make it a point to have a daily routine for yourself and your children.
  4. Take a break
    Children can worry just as much, if not more, than adults. Give them a break. If they are struggling with homework, let them walk-a-way to ease the burden. Perhaps they have been stressed over a failed friendship, take them out for some fun. Do something to ease their worries.
  5. Teach your child self-care
    Self-care is the best thing you can do for not only yourself but your family. Be sure you are taking care of you so you can take care of them. Be the example that you are essential, too. Your children will grow up to understand the importance of self-care.
  6. Move toward your goals Make goals, and have your child make goals as well. Stick with the goals that you make. Keep moving forward, even if it’s baby steps. Baby steps are also mean progress.
  7. Nurture a positive self-view
    Reassure your child that they are amazing. When they are feeling defeated, remind them of all of the obstacles they have already overcome. Reminisce over the repeated success they have made.
  8. Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook
    Stay optimistic with your children. Assure them that they will overcome this hardship. As Albert Einstein said, “Crisis is the greatest blessing for people and nations because crisis brings on progress… It’s in crisis that inventive discoveries and great strategies rise. He who overcomes a crisis overcomes himself without being ‘Overcome.'”
  9. Look for opportunities for self-discovery
    The times in which individuals learn the most about themselves is during trying times. Allow and encourage your children to reflect on who they are.
  10. Accept that change is part of living
    Help your children see that change is beautiful. From the budding flowers to the changing of the leaves, change is all around us as well as within us. Without change, there is no progress.

Children can develop into thriving adults, as long as we nurture them as they deserve.

As the significant adults in their lives, we need to learn how to let our children go as they grow as with independence comes knowledge. Trust in the roots they have established with you and support them in their delicate times.

Resources:

Harris, Judith R. Where Is the Child’s Environment? A Group Socialization Theory of Development. Psychological Review, July 1995. Vol. 102, No. 3, 458–489. https://faculty.weber.edu/eamsel/Classes/Child%203000/Lectures/3%20Childhood/SE%20development/JudithHarris.html