Two Surprising Myths about Resilience


Researchers call the ability to handle challenging situations in a way that promotes well-being "resilience." 

Myth #1: Being resilient is about being tough.

Some parents imagine resilience means developing a "thick skin," so that their child can shrug off the wounds and difficulties of life. But child development expert Gordon Neufeld argues that "soft-heartedness," or being open to feelings and experiences, is actually the most resilient state - as long as it is protected by a secure attachment to a stable caregiver.

Watch Gordon Neufeld's explanation[1] below.


Myth #2: Children are born resilient (or not).

Let's wrestle with the age old question of whether it is "nature" or "nurture" that is most important in an individual's behavioural traits ....or is it a bit of both?

Dr. Tom Boyce, developmental paediatrician and social epidemiologist studies how our genes (nature) and environments (nurture) affect each other. His research has shown, in fact, that conditions such as maternal health and education, nutrition, environmental toxins, poverty, and child rearing practices affect how our DNA is expressed. This results in some children who become highly sensitive to their environment as they grow up (they flourish when it is supportive and wither when it is stressful). 

Watch Dr. Tom Boyce[2] begin to demystify how environments (both nurturing and stressful) change children at the level of genetic expression in the world of "social epigenetics."

Watch Gordon Neufeld's 2012 presentation in entirety on Making Sense of Anxiety in Children and Youth. He sheds fresh light on the problem of anxiety, paving the way for natural interventions that focus on the root causes as opposed to just managing the symptoms. 

More of Tom Boyce's presentation from the Heart-Mind 2014 conference is available and highlights how sensitive children (orchid children) thrive in highly supportive environments whereas more resilient children seem to thrive in many circumstances. His research provides important information about how we can create highly supportive and nurturing environments for children.

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.