Being There: Raising Resilient Children

Psychoanalyst Erica Komisar explores the vital importance of secure attachment in children’s early years

How do we raise healthy, happy children? This is one of the most important questions for all parents, who want their children to thrive and be capable of handling life’s challenges.

According to the National Institutes of Health, one-third of young adults aged 18 to 25 in the United States have some form of mental illness, with more than one in ten suffering from a serious mental condition. These are alarmingly high levels, but young people do not have to continue suffering from mental and emotional fragility. (Can we footnote a link to this data?)

This paper unpacks the ways in which parents can raise resilient children. It should come as no surprise that the first three years of a child’s life are the most important, and parents play a vital role in their children’s development.

Here is a selection of some of the most striking factors affecting the resilience of children:

  • Mother-child relationship in first three years: The first 1,000 days of a child’s life lay the foundation for their personality, character, and emotional development. During this time, children need to form secure attachments to their primary caregiver, preferably their mother, so that they are able to cope with stress and become mentally healthy and emotionally stable adults.  
  • Time spent with children: Studies show the more time parents spend with their children, the healthier the children will be, both emotionally and physically. Modern working culture means parents spend less time with their children and, collectively, we need to find ways to support parents so that they can be there for their children.
  • Mental health of parents: Healthy children need healthy parents. There is evidence that when parents suffer from mental illness, their children suffer. Parents model emotional regulation and can unconsciously pass down emotional challenges to their children. When parents work on improving themselves, they invest in their children’s future.
  • Extended family and community: Grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins play a role in making children feel secure. Faith-based communities have a particularly positive role: a Harvard study found that children raised in faith-based homes were more likely to be mentally healthy, have lower rates of addiction, and be more resilient to stress.
  • Technology: Children need physical connection, not virtual stimulation. Evidence shows that the more screen time children enjoy, the lower their psychological well-being.
  • Positive changes can be made: Building a future with more resilient children will require a collective commitment from parents, families, communities, and policymakers to find innovative solutions. Parents need to be there for their children and we need to be there for parents.  

Read the full paper

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