Can Adversity Make Us Stronger?

How to build children’s resilience, and your own, amid coronavirus unknowns

The world is upside down right now due to coronavirus. Although there are early signs of tentative re-openings for trial-and-error life after quarantine, we cannot — and arguably should not — downplay the ongoing challenges and uncertainties for our children. Some have contended that talking to children about the COVID-19 outbreak is an opportunity to build resiliency.

Psychologists commonly explain resilience as “how well a person can adapt to events in their lives … when faced with a tragedy, natural disaster, health concern, relationship, work or school problem.”

If we want our children and youth to emerge from this world emergency as more resilient, we need to understand that resilience is not the inevitable outcome of exposure to hardship. After all, we probably all know people who thrive under difficult conditions and others who sink under the weight of adversity.

So what can we do to tip the scales in favour of resilience…


Can Adversity Make Us Stronger?

“Behavioral scientists refer to the capacity to bounce back from personal losses and emotional trauma as “resilience.” Often, this is considered an innate character trait, meaning you either have it or you don’t. Not so. For the most part, resilience is an acquired capacity, and a “just right” amount of adversity is proven to build it.”- Philip Chard

Even in so-called normal times, which these clearly are not, most of us avoid situations we anticipate will prove mentally and emotionally disturbing. We don’t invite suffering into our lives, which is part of what makes this pandemic particularly onerous. There’s no escaping its impact on our mindsets and moods.

In their own way, blows to the mind can be as damaging as those to the body, with impacts ranging from anxiety, depression and anger to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and heart wrenching grief. Alternatively, there are those who insist adversity is a good thing, one that fortifies character. The common refrain is, “What doesn’t destroy you makes you stronger.”

So, given our current circumstances, which theory comes closer to the truth? Do bad happenings, like COVID-19, make us damaged goods or do they foster personal resilience…


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