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Resilient Families

Reviewed Jun 17, 2013


Resilient families

  • are cohesive
  • see problems as challenges that can be overcome
  • hold on to hope in difficult times

Why is it that some families seem to cope with the worst things that life dishes out, while others seem to unravel at the first sign of trouble? In a word, the answer is resilience.

Resilience refers to internal strength and durability. In families it is evidenced by a sense of control over the outcomes of life and how the family unit responds to hard times. There are 3 major components of family resilience.


There are many positive adages about families who stick together, and rightfully so. Families with high cohesiveness count on each other to give meaningful and real support, encouragement and even rebuke when appropriate. In other words, there is an assumed, unspoken level of trust and commitment to one another that seems to defy logic.

In times of hardship, others marvel at the apparent lack of worry observed in their friends or co-workers from cohesive families. This lack of worry should never be mistaken for a lack of concern. During tough times cohesive families communicate a consistent message: “I am here for you.”

Researchers who have researched women in labor can attest to the power of having a loved one present. Studies have consistently shown that women who have their husbands or other loved ones present during delivery report less distress and need less pain management than those women who are alone. Knowing that someone cares that you are hurting can make all the difference in the world.   


While it’s true that there usually are plenty of challenges in daily living, tough families seldom shy away from a challenge. In fact, what other families describe as a problem, resilient families, more often than not, describe as a challenge. It’s their mindset. They tend to believe, in the humblest way, that they can overcome most obstacles in life. It is not that they feel overly confident in their talent or that they have special skills. Resilient families have a sense of purpose, perseverance and an uncanny understanding that by hanging together they can make their way.

Resilient families accept that there are many obstacles and challenges in life. Instead of shaking their fist at them, they take them head on.


Losing hope during hard times often signals the beginning of the end. When hope is lost, we tend to throw in the towel. Resilient families are known for their sense of hope, and for even “out hoping” others. One reason is that they always find things they can control when other things are tilting out of control.

When Joann’s 79-year-old father was dying of lung cancer, there was little the family could do to stop it. However, they decided that there was plenty they could do to keep this illness from robbing them of the time they had left. So they planned parties and family celebrations to commemorate his life. Because he did not want to be in the hospital until the very end, the adult grandchildren took turns sleeping at his home to give support to their grandmother. Although they accepted that his death was not in their hands, they never gave up hope that his last days could be filled with joy.

Resilience can be learned

Resilience can be learned over time. You can learn a great deal from observing resilient families and asking how they respond to hard times. You can also take steps to nurture resilience in yourself and your family by having a hopeful outlook, keeping things in perspective, looking for chances for self-discovery and accepting that change is a part of life.

By Drew Edwards, MS

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