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Let's Talk LIfe: Making my child resilient

Published:Saturday | February 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dear Counsellor:

been hearing a lot about resilience in children or adults. How can I ensure that my children are resilient?

- Maria

Dear Maria:

Resilience is a buzzword in the counselling arena. Resilience is being able to bounce back quickly from life tragedies.

Many children are being brought up in dysfunctional families where domestic violence and child abuse are common. Some of these children have been able to weather the storm and achieve happy and productive lives.

Research has shown that if at least one caregiver, usually a parent, takes an interest in a child, that child stands a good chance of doing well in life. If a caregiver takes an active interest in a child and shows love and concern in spite of the child's behaviour, the child will appreciate the interest and will want to excel, if only to prove the caregiver right.

Some children learn to distance themselves from the mayhem and do well in school. They set themselves goals and work to achieve them. These children get involved in extra-curricular activities, do their homework and revise for examination. They ask for help from others and are quite assertive.

Some adults are unable to take good care of themselves because when they were growing up, they had spent most of their time taking care of others. They never learn boundary management or the right to say no.

Teach your children about boundaries and personal space. Teach them to take care of themselves and speak up if they feel that they are being abused. Help your children to be assertive but respectful, and to honour their commitments. These days commitments don't stand for much but nonetheless teach responsibility.

Your children need to develop social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy, a sense of purpose and optimism. Manners go a far way and will open doors and opportunities.

Teach your children to think and act positively at all times. They need to make good use of their emotional intelligence. They need to be able to control their moods and feelings and behave appropriately at all times.

Have high expectations for success for your children. Take them to church with you and teach them the principles of Christianity. Studies have shown that children who have a faith-based background are, generally speaking, better able to overcome challenges.

Remarried with stepchildren

Dear Counsellor:

getting married to a divorcé. He has three children from his previous marriage. I am concerned about the impact of these children on my marriage and the influence of the ex-wife.

- Doreen

Dear Doreen:

Marriage is a challenge, and when there are stepchildren this is even more so. Remarriage is a popular option these days, so there has been an increase of blended families or stepfamilies.

You need to discuss the issue of children before the marriage. Is your husband to be the custodial parent? If he is, you will have an instant family. Having an instant family is a quick learning curve as you have to get familiar with the children, as you have now become their guardian.

The challenges will vary, depending on the age of the children. Teenagers are a more controversial demographic than toddlers. Sometimes, the older children don't like their stepmother and can make life miserable for her. The involvement of the father is very important, as he has to discipline the children and act as referee in disputes.

Both parties should set goals and targets to ensure that there is pleasantness in the home. One of the tasks for any family is to rear children to be productive, useful and empathic to others. With both parties discussing the issues and having common goals, those targets become more achievable.

Stepfamilies can be good and nurturing if all members pull together. The ex-wife will be in the picture because of the children. Your husband should be the one to interface with the mother of his children.

It is always wise to seek counselling to help you deal with these issues.

Email Dr Yvonnie Bailey-Davidson to or phone 978-8602.