Manoj comes from a poor family. His father is a Peon in a state electricity board and mother had mostly been a homemaker. He has a younger brother. His father is an alcoholic and had been hostile towards him and his mother. The domestic environment had been extremely stressful. He lives in a narrow-laned colony and goes to a government school for his education. In the same colony just around the corner, there lives a girl named Suman. Suman’s family is big. She lives with her parents and 4 younger siblings in a small house and goes to the same government school. Suman’s father is a petty criminal and is always in and out of jail. He is pretty abusive towards his wife and children. Due to this, Suman’s mother is mostly sick and so every household responsibility lies on her shoulder.
They both had to drop out of schools in order to provide for their families. After a few years, Manoj got arrested for selling drugs and was serving his sentence whereas Suman had resumed her studies with a distance learning center while working as a sales assistant in a big supermarket chain. After 5 more years, Manoj who was out on bail again indulged in drug activity and eventually got arrested on the other hand Suman by this time was pursuing distance MBA while working as a superintendent in the same supermarket. After completing her MBA she got a job as the store manager in another big supermarket chain based on her academics and experience and her family was well cared and provided for. She moved out of that colony and started living in rented accommodation in a nice locality. Manoj never came out of the drug nexus and cases over cases kept piling on his record and then he was sentenced for good 15 years.
Both the children faced similar hostile, abusive and financially poor environment. Then how did Suman come out of it so effectively, whereas, Manoj succumbed to the crimes he took to? This is a classic example of what we call “Resilience”. Who are Resilient Children and what makes them resilient? Resilience is the ability to fight against adverse conditions and still conduct in a socially and morally correct manner or the ability to effectively recover even in the face of threat or hostile environment.
There are four major factors that promote resilience in children.
- Personal Talent and Temperament
- Close Relationship with Parents
- Social Support besides Parents’
- Regional Opportunities and Resources
Personal Talent and Temperament – A child who is talented or highly intelligent could get a lot of encouragement and opportunities from the school. For example, if a child is a good singer, or good in sports and athletics and similar talents, then he could get rewarding experiences from the school and the community. It could then reduce the impact of stressful life at home. A child’s natural temperament also plays a huge role. Children who are naturally easy going and have an optimistic way towards life tend to easily suppress the negative influences and adapt to change quite effectively. A short-tempered or brooding child will react to similar situations with much aggression and that can result in their falling for the negative influences. Suman had strong leadership qualities and she always calm and focused while Manoj was always cribbing and complaining.
Close Relationship with Parents – If a child is close to at least one parent and shares a strong and warm relationship, then it’s likely that the child’s coping mechanism towards the negative influences will be much better. A parent who is attentive to the child and encourages them to do good and provides emotional and moral support during stressful times can help the child overcome and adapt to the situation very effectively. It must be noted though, that the child’s personal temperament also matters here. Children who are naturally relaxed and calm are able to deal with the stressful changes better and more likely to develop positive relationships with friends and family as compared to the irritable and aggressive ones. Though Suman’s mother was mostly sick they both shared a very strong bond with each other. Her mother motivated a lot and provided quite a strong emotional support. Whereas, Manoj’s relationship with his parents were quite strained. He didn’t have any strong relationship with either of his parents or any adult for that matter.
Social Support besides Parents’ – Some children are not lucky enough to be able to share a close bond with their parents. Many times they have lost one or both of their parents and this can aggravate the situation even more. Here, in such situation, a warm relationship with any other adult, such as Grandparent/s, aunt, uncle or even a teacher at school can really help the children cope with the problems and help promote resilience. Even friends for that matter, who support and stay together in tougher times and provide emotional support, help promote resilience. Suman had strong support through her school teacher who guided her in her academical and professional journey whereas Manoj rarely went to school and was always found in the company of miscreants.
Regional Opportunities and Resources – The facilities and infrastructure in the locality, such as good schools, affordable community libraries, social services (NGOs), opportunities in local extra-curricular competitions, sports clubs and parks can really help strengthen the child’s and its family’s well being. Participating in local talent based events and social events can help children acquire qualities like leadership, teamwork, etc which in return boosts confidence and self-reliance. Such rewarding experiences can help strengthen resilience in children facing adversity and help them cope better. When children get better opportunities and exposure which gives them hope of turning their lives around, they will do their best to do that. Suman had great communication skills. She knew how to convince people. Her talent was widely used in community fares and local social activities focused on helping other girls and women. Manoj on the other hand never discovered his true talent and therefore never participated in any community or local activities which could have helped him.
Any of the above mentioned factors could come into play in promoting resilience in children. Scientists and researchers are now studying these factors to look for ways to protect the children from the damaging effects of the stressful life conditions. This article highlights the complex connections between the heredity and environment. Children’s innate temperament and/or the motivating forces around them can boost the determination and will to turn their lives around and of those around them. However, when too many unexpected problems occur the situation may get very difficult to overcome. Here, it is very important that the interventions not only focus on reducing problems but also to strengthen bonds at home, school and community to help the children effectively cope with the most stressful and threatening situations of life.