Promoting resiliency in our children and families

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COVID-19 has significantly impacted the physical, psychological and financial well-being of families throughout the United States.

Families with children have experienced unique challenges, such as parents balancing work and child care, and children adapting to changes in daily routine and online learning. As a result, children and parents have experienced a decline in brain and physical health during the pandemic.

Some families have been able to maintain their well-being despite the pandemic, and resilience has played an important role in this.

Resilience is our ability to cope with adversity and bounce back after stressful and difficult experiences. Researchers have found that when a person can successfully cope with stressful life events, they are less likely to develop negative brain and physical health outcomes.

Some people might seem naturally more resilient than others. However, resilience isn’t a fixed trait. We can learn to build our resilience so that we are equipped to cope with adversity throughout the course of our lives.

For instance, a person can become more resilient by learning how to use coping skills to regulate stress or by connecting with supportive people in their lives.

Both individual and environmental characteristics contribute to resilience. While some environmental factors, such as a global pandemic, are outside our control, we can exert control over other environments.

Specifically, we can learn how to create family environments that promote security and resilience for youth. Recent research has found that disruption to family processes during the pandemic — such as declines in family closeness, increases in family conflict and changes to parenting practices — are linked to child adjustment and resilience.

If we can identify factors that predict resilience, we can teach individuals and families skills to cope with adversity. This includes research efforts like the Dubuque Youth and Family Resilience Project, a community-based project led by Clarke University researchers that is designed to understand the relationships between parent-child interactions, parenting and co-parenting practices, and child resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the study, the Dubuque Youth and Family Resilience Project will share its findings to assist community organizations in developing programs and services that are tailored to the specific needs of Dubuque families.