Parenting Resilient Kids: ACE-ing the Test!

Parenting Resilient Kids: ACE-ing the Test!

By Jacob B. Pierce, MD/MPH student

Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine

From car seats to vaccines, lots of our time as parents and healthcare providers is spent trying to protect our children and patients from potential threats to their health.  Most of this time is focused on threats to their physical health; car seats protect children from dangerous accidents, and vaccines protect against diseases.  But what about emotional threats to our children?  Do we know what they are, and how can we protect our kids against them?  As it turns out, researchers have found that “resilient” children may be better equipped to handle future stressors.  But what does resilience even mean? 

In their Handbook on Resilience in Children, Drs. Sam Goldstein and Robert Brooks define resilience as “the ability to cope with and overcome adversity.”  Basically, resilience is how well our kids can handle tough situations.  And some of those tough situations end up having lasting impact on our children’s health throughout their lifetime.  One 1998 study showed that certain tough childhood experiences can lead to increased risk for major diseases even in your 50’s and 60’s!  They termed these challenging situations “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs for short.  From being abused as a child to living with an alcoholic parent or guardian, this study related 10 different ACEs to higher rates of heart disease, mental illness, and even cancer.  If you want to read more about the study, try here

Even apart from ACEs, childhood stressors can be really tough on kids.  One important thing you can do to help your children deal with challenging events is to give them the toolkit beforehand!  Research shows that children of parents who are supportive and engaged are better able to handle stressors in their lives.  Here are a few important techniques that researchers have discovered:

Helping kids through challenging times can be tough, and hopefully you find these tips helpful in preparing your child to be more resilient.  Here is a resource if your child is having a particularly hard time:


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