We know the statistics: about 20% of American children today grow up in deprived circumstances – poverty, social isolation, chaotic home life, surrounded by drugs, alcohol, or gangs. Unfortunately many of them repeat this dysfunctional process as they begin to have behavioral problems themselves. What we don’t understand is how some of the children are able to overcome their poor environment and develop into resilient kids and young adults.
A recent study has considered why some babies seem to be able to tolerate the lack of a nurturing environment better than others. The researchers point to a complex interaction between nature and nurture as they categorize children as either orchids or dandelions, depending on how they respond to their environment, given their temperament. Just as orchids need a perfect environment in order to blossom while dandelions are hardier and can grow in most circumstances, they posit that the same is true of children.
They looked at physiologically at risk babies – those whose heart rates vary as they breathe – and considered their environments, including their relationships with caregivers. They found that at risk orchid children require a supportive environment with secure relationships in order to thrive while at risk dandelions seem to be less affected by their environment and significant relationships. Even in the midst of a deeply troubling family life, these at risk dandelions can behave appropriately and in a functional manner – even thrive.
As parents we strive to give our kids – be they orchids or dandelions – tools to help them bloom. One is to provide them with stability – a structure they can count on with boundaries and a set routine to expect. On Thursday, we’ll give you 6 more tips for building resilience in children so be sure to visit us then.