Raising Spiritually Resilient Children

Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from hardships or failure and to adapt well to change. Spiritual resilience has a couple of extra layers to it. Someone who is spiritually resilient does not let the problems, difficulties or failures in his or her life weaken or destroy his or her faith and/or commitment to God. In addition, unlike secular resiliency, which focuses purely on the individual, spiritual resilience takes advantage of God’s wisdom and guidance as part of the recovery process.

The most important tool in the resiliency toolbox of your children? Their relationship with you! If you have a strong, healthy relationship with your kids and give them plenty of emotional and spiritual support, then they have a strong foundation on which to build resilience. They only need one supportive parent in their lives (although two of course doubles their access to support) to reap the benefits. For those who don’t have a healthy relationship with either of their parents, a highly engaged adult mentor can fill much of that gap.

There are three personality traits that make children naturally more resilient – optimism, adapting easily to changes and the ability to make friends easily. If your children were not born with these character traits, they can still be resilient. They don’t need to totally change their personality, but can work towards moving a little more in the direction of those helpful traits.

There are some skill sets resiliency experts have found increase resilience. Most of these can also help with spiritual resilience – although a few will need a tweak to more accurately reflect God’s wisdom.

  • Problem solving skills – solutions should incorporate God’s wisdom and obey His commands when applicable
  • Planning/goal setting – plans and goals should give room for God to change those plans if His plans are different
  • Time management skills
  • Strong sense of personal responsibility – both admitting and atoning when necessary for mistakes and sins as well as taking responsibility for making godly choices so as not to negatively impact others
  • Strong locus of control – believing the choices, attitudes and actions of a person impact outcomes. In secular resiliency, the underlying assumption is that the person knows the best actions to take, whereas in Christianity, there is a recognition of what God should control and using His guidance to make better choices. Locus of control is on a spectrum and resilient young people are towards the strong end of the spectrum. An example might be a teen with a strong locus of control, who failed a test, then deciding to pay more attention in class, study longer and get a tutor before the next test because those choices should improve the grade on the next test. A teen with a weak locus of control decides nothing he or she might do would improve outcomes. A weak locus of control is often blanketed with support statements like “because the teacher hates me and will fail me no matter what I do”.

There are three additional spiritual tools in the toolbox of spiritually resilient young people.

  • Scripture – the spiritually resilient young person uses scripture for guidance and/or as a reminder for the choices God knows are in their best interest. Young people who are spiritually resilient spend time reading, reflecting upon and memorizing scripture (so it is in long term memory for guidance when needed).
  • Prayer – spiritually resilient young people have an active prayer life that includes praying independently to God about emotions and asking for guidance
  • Godly advice from strong Christians – your kids need you to teach them how to identify people who are actively living their faith and who can give them godly advice. They also need to know how to compare this advice to the Bible to make sure it is godly before following it.

There are a few special tools that will best prepare your kids to be spiritually resilient.

  • Self control/impulse control – a fruit of the Spirit, self control is essential for avoiding sin. It also has been shown to increase resiliency.
  • Godly self esteem – Self esteem that is either too high or too low is bad for your kids. Godly self esteem encourages them to humbly discover, develop and use their gifts and talents to serve others, but also repents of sin and works to become more and more like Jesus every day.
  • Patience/perseverance – the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint. Your kids will need patience and perseverance to end well.

Your kids need your help to become spiritually resilient. It will take time and effort on your part. It’s worth it though, because spiritually resilient children are more likely to follow God all the days of their lives.

Published by

Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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