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Parenting Solutions: Teaching Children to Bounce Back: Ways to Raise Resilient Kids

When a crisis arrives, there are steps that parents and other significant adults can take to help children not only survive, but even to thrive.

Recently the Los Angeles Times featured a front-page story about high school senior Margie Peralta. Although she was afflicted by poverty, a terribly abusive mother, and forced to live in an array of foster homes, the San Fernando, Calif., teen-ager is the “picture of success,” according to the newspaper.

Growing up in a poor neighborhood, Margie often had to outrun tough kids who chased her. Worse was the fact that she often had to outrun her mother, who by Margie’s account would often beat her in bursts of frightening, unprovoked rage. The abuse became so severe that child welfare authorities placed Margie in a series of foster homes—places that she says exhibited their own “kind of weirdness” and that she describes as being like prisons. Yet, she displayed a remarkable ability to bounce back from each negative situation she encountered.

Thanks to her inner resilience, this high school senior seems destined for a future of success, not of utter failure. Margie is graduating from San Fernando High School with high honors and as editor of the school newspaper. She has been admitted to the University of California, Berkeley.

A harsh reality of life is that children, like adults, will experience their own unique trials and tribulations. Some may be minor—receiving a low grade on a project—and some may be major—the death of a parent. When a crisis arrives, whether it is large or small, some children flounder while others seem to flourish.

Although resilience, the ability to bounce back from trouble, may be more naturally inborn in some youths than others, that bounce-back ability can be a learned skill. Here are some important steps that parents and other key adults can take to help children not only survive but even thrive: