Building Resilience: The Power to Cope With Adversity
Are you tired, stressed, unsure of a family members health? These things impact you AND young children and teens as well. Everyday experiences or challenges could potentially trigger adversity in children. We tend to idealize childhood as a carefree time, but youth alone offers no shield against the emotional hurts and traumas many children face. Many families face stressful situations including economic hardship, neglect, exposure to violence, exposure to substance abuse and mental health problems, or adapting to new situations. Add to that the uncertainties that are part of growing up, and childhood can be anything but carefree. The ability to thrive despite these challenges arises from the skill of building resiliency and coping with adversity.
The good news is that resilience skills can be learned. However, being resilient does not mean that children won’t experience difficulty or distress. Building resilience – the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress – can help children manage stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
Researchers from the Children’s Hospital in Boston express how resilience can be recognized and fostered at four levels:
For the individual child:
- Supporting a child’s capacity to learn, to relate to others, to use imagination, and to see himself as part of the community.
- Developing a child’s awareness and regulation of his own feelings, as well as developing skills to express these feelings
- Encouraging children’s relationships with their peers, their teachers, and their parents.
- Understanding different ways families can show strength and resilience.
- Encouraging parents in their efforts to be more effective by having their regular routines for their children to follow, maintaining appropriate limits, and engaging in positive parent-child interactions.
At the school and caregiving level:
- Encouraging consistent positive attachments with children and making parents feel welcomed and comfortable.
- Understanding adversity and resilience in the families they work with can help teachers be a resource to families and more effective in their work.
At the community level:
- Understanding what exists and what is missing in community resources.
- Sharing knowledge and experiences with families to find the right service or information from schools, clinics, and community centers.
It may seem like a stretch, but consider the words of Hooding S. Cater, “Together may we give our children the roots to grow and the wings to fly.” With the hundreds of children in our lives and the likelihood that they will experience adversity, recognizing and fostering resilience on these levels is key to future success.
Early Learning Educational Support Coordinator
San Luis Obispo County Office of Education