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Resilience in children and coping during the pandemic: An academic article on recent literature.

The incy wincy spider

“Incy Wincy spider climbed the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider out”

The pandemic has been a long haul for most, with happy moments to rest and be safe in the houses, to hard times for some, to reaching the brink of boredom, and to what not. Every individual has had different experiences. This makes us think about children, our incy wincy spiders. Children require social interaction to grow. Research in developmental psychology since long has established this fact. However, children have been for the right reasons, forced to stay inside their homes, to be protected from the invisible virus, the much too troublesome rain. Their interactions with the peers and those around them was cut short and they have been encouraged to find newer methods of play and interaction.

Interestingly, over the period of the pandemic, researchers have made the effort to delve into the nitty gritties in the lives of children right from their adaptability and resilience to the new virtual method of schooling that has been adapted far and wide. This article is a review of literature of some of the studies done during the pandemic across the world, on resilience in children during this course of time.

What is resilience one may ask, resilience can be defined and described in a number of ways. It can be defined as the ability to bounce back from adversities, or it can be defined as the “capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully to challenges that threaten the function, survival, or development of the system.” (Masten, 2018)

Tso and his colleagues (2020) conducted a study across 29,202 individual families; of which 12,163 had children aged 2–5 years and 17,029 had children aged 6–12 years in Hong Kong. They assessed the parent-child interaction, lifestyle habits, and functioning, and parental stress due to COVID- 19. They found vulnerable groups like children with special needs, families with members who have mental disorders, or single-parent families faced greater inequalities than those with conventional family setups. The research also suggested that prolonged periods of school closures put even healthy children at risk of psychosocial problems with decreased emotional, social functioning and lower physical activity level. Better sleep patterns were also found to promote fewer psychosocial problems.

Studies have shown that the experience of mass disasters and economic recession are linked with an increase in risks of mental health disorders. (Golberstein, Wen, & Miller, 2020) Contrary to this, environmental stressors may provide protective factors that offer opportunities to promote children’s resilience, that is, it builds in them the process or tools to adapt effectively in times of adversity. (Masten & Barnes, 2018) Learning methods have now shifted and are struggling to get back to “normal” due to the unprecedented nature of the virus. In a comprehensive article by Ganie and Mukhter (2020), the involvement of parents and the family setup has been given much weight. The need and the methods of nurturing resilience in children have been discussed. Children were bound to show negative behaviors due to the closure of schools and other places of interaction due to the COVID -19. And it is only in the fairyland, where we can consider every child’s home to be a safe space for them. (see more Haffejee & Levine, 2020)

Measures of nurturing resilience in children at home have been suggested, like effective communication, cultivation of creativity, protecting children from prolonged isolation, promoting physical activities, quality time, and effective parenting. These though, just a few may result in better interaction with the child and prevent them from psychological or behavioral disorders like depression.

Another eye-opening research was conducted in South Africa (Browne, Smith & Basabose, 2021) where they explored the lives of refugee children and their families from the perspective of the resilience framework which talks about protective factors and risk factors. All refugee children and families will likely possess inoculating factors, including family narratives and experiences around successful prior coping in light of adversities before the pandemic, while buffering factors would include resources and protection that concurrently operate to offset adversity, such as positive family support at home during the quarantine period. Repair factors include health-promoting practices and styles of supporting one another immediately after the shutdown, while compensatory factors refer to the sociocultural resources, including religiosity, spirituality, and other cultural practices that are independent of the stressors and mobilized after the repair is complete. Promotive factors are variables that promote health regardless of COVID-19 or other risk and may include a nation’s strong refugee policy, social safety net, and universal health care, while windows of opportunity describe major life changes and formalized support services like psychotherapy that may operate to change the trajectories for children and families for the better, downstream of adversity.

To sum up this review, it is important to look at resilience in children from the perspective of their social and cognitive development. PeConga et al. (2020) have stated that resilience is “spreading” during this period of the pandemic. The fact that resilience may not only be innate but experientially developed, is the way to go in terms of ideating interventions in classrooms and policies. It is the nurturing of resilience which acts as the bright Sun, to overcome the adversity and climb the spout to their well being and success.“Community resilience can be established with the preemptive slogan “we’re in this together” and honor the resilience that communities capacitate. It is of major importance to learn and teach healthy coping and to transmit resilience through our actions to the future through this pandemic.

“Out came the sun and dried up all the rain. And the incy wincy spider went up the spout again.”

Author: Chelsea Dean, 28/03/2021


Browne, D. T., Smith, J. A., & Basabose, J. D. D. (2021). Refugee Children and Families During the COVID-19 Crisis: A Resilience Framework for Mental Health. Journal of Refugee Studies.

Ganie, A. U. R., & Mukhter, I. (2020). Children’s Reactions to Lockdown: Need of Nurturing Resilience in Children Exposed to COVID-19 Pandemic: A. International Journal of Research in Social Sciences, 10(07).

Golberstein, E., Wen, H., & Miller, B. F. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and mental health for children and adolescents. JAMA pediatrics, 174(9), 819-820.

Haffejee, S., & Levine, D. T. (2020). ‘When will I be free’: Lessons from COVID-19 for Child Protection in South Africa. Child Abuse & Neglect, 110, 104715.

Masten, A. S., & Barnes, A. J. (2018). Resilience in children: Developmental perspectives. Children, 5(7), 98.

PeConga, E. K., Gauthier, G. M., Holloway, A., Walker, R. S., Rosencrans, P. L., Zoellner, L. A., & Bedard-Gilligan, M. (2020). Resilience is spreading: Mental health within the COVID-19 pandemic. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(S1), S47.

Tso, W. W., Wong, R. S., Tung, K. T., Rao, N., Fu, K. W., Yam, J. C., ... & Wong, I. C. (2020). Vulnerability and resilience in children during the COVID-19 pandemic. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 1-16.

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