Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

January 3, 2023
Resilience, the problem caused by nobody but felt by all

A young boy races down the asphalt in front of his house. Wind blowing in his hair, the sun’s warming rays spilling out from above. He is just learning to ride his bike. He starts to go a little faster and all of a sudden, a bump, the slight movement of the handle bars, and out of nowhere he finds himself on the ground. He looks down to see a scraped knee that has just begun to bleed. This moment is about much more than just the scrape, or the bike, or even just getting up. This issue isn’t about just getting up this one time, or even the next, but about every time that this child will fall for the rest of his life. It is about resilience.

During recent years there has been an overall consensus among researchers that the resilience in younger generations has been declining.  Dr. Michael Ungar of Dalhousie University in Canada has done extensive research on resilience among today’s youth and made the following observation in his article on how youth can lead more resilient lives. “A new study shows that one in five young adults (ages 18-23) don’t have enough resilience to cope with unexpected stress.” These “problems” mentioned by Dr. Ungar are likely to be a poor grade on a test, or an unexpected wrench in a relationship. Resilience is often defined as the ability to bounce back from setbacks or to overcome adversity, and is key to properly managing stress and drawbacks. 

As mentioned before, the real problem isn’t necessarily the fact that our dear bike-riding-friend fell. It is so much more about the mindset of getting back up, no matter the fall. With increasingly more complex issues, we need the future generations to be more prepared than the past ones. With possible future obstacles ranging from the effects of climate change, deadly new diseases, scarcity of fresh water and increasingly dangerous terrorist attacks, there will be a lot for today’s youth to tackle tomorrow. What will happen if this next generation is not able to overcome these hardships? In the face of a worldwide famine we can’t just throw in the towel and hide in our rooms till everything is over.

Although the research is fairly consistent with regards to the certainty of the lack of resilience in the younger generations, there is a reasonable amount of disagreement as to why it has happened. Experts have blamed everything from social media, to helicopter parenting tactics, to increased mental illness and current cultural trends. Notwithstanding the plethora of accusations, there is a general consensus among informed researchers on how we can help children to become more resilient. 

Increased social connections are the central to helping children to become more resilient. In a research study conducted with 485 individuals by various institutions this past May on the topic of fostering resilience among youth, they found that children, especially those who had experienced traumatic events early in their life, were able to develop more resilience in the presence of strong social support groups. They found that families in particular played a key role. This conclusion is affirmed by numerous other studies done by many other researchers over the years as well. One of the biggest keys to helping children to become more resilient is by strengthening family relationships between parents and children. 

Dr. David Schramm, a member of the Human Development and Family Studies Department at Utah State University is an expert on family relations and resilience. He argues that one of the best ways that parents can strengthen their relationships with their kids is by having what Dr. Schramm refers to as “rituals of connecting.” This is any event that is a set aside time to do a specific activity with a child such as a monthly movie night, or a simple trip to get some ice cream. Another of the most important suggestions from Dr. Schramm is having dinner as a family. This is considered one of the best ways that parents can connect with their kids. It may come as surprising, but strong family connections fostered through quality time with the family is one of the keys to helping the next generation to become more resilient. 

So even when our dear bicycle riding takes a nosedive onto the cement, the connections made during family dinners will be able to help him to get back up, wipe off the blood, and continue forward. It is time to make family time more of a priority.

Quinton Adair is a graduate of Stansbury HIgh School. He is currently a student at Utah State University in Logan.

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