Building Resilience

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Building Resilience

Resilience is defined as 1) the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties: toughness, and 2) the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.  We often combine the two and think of people as being able to bounce or spring back after facing something negative.

How many times have you heard someone say how resilient children are?  It is true that children can be extremely resilient.  It is also true that sometimes they aren’t.  Gaston Bachelard said, “Childhood lasts all through life.”  Childhood is the foundation upon which our lives are built. 

So, if children are not all naturally resilient, what can we do to help children that face trauma in their childhoods?  We can help children build resilience.  At CASA, we often talk about “The Seven Cs of Resilience”.  Those “Cs” stand for competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping, and control.

Competence is the ability to handle a situation effectively.  How do you help a child build that skill? Children need to be able to figure things out on their own, be praised for efforts and not just results. Encourage children to see that mistakes are something to be learned from and that they help them improve future results.  Rather than just explaining how to complete a task, help a child think through how to complete a task.

Confidence is believing in your own abilities.  That can be tough for children and adults alike.  Children can build confidence by setting goals and plotting out the steps to achieve the goal.  We can help children by being authentic with them.  Rather than heaping on praise that may appear to be insincere, be specific in how you praise children.  Instead of telling a child who is learning to play baseball that they are the best batter of all time, tell them that they do a great job of keeping their eye on the ball or that they had a solid hit.  Instead of telling a budding artist that they are the best artist you have ever seen, tell them that you like the style they use, they have a great eye for color, or their art makes you happy.    

Connection is having a sense of belonging.  It is important for children to have strong connections with family and community.  You can help a child find a place to connect where they feel comfortable and valued such as a team, club, or church group.  It is also important for children to have positive connections with adults in their lives.  That can be a parent or other relative, teachers, coaches, mentors, and youth leaders. 

Character is having a strong set of values that help you determine right from wrong. You can help children build character by helping them see how their behavior and decisions affect others.  You can often reverse the situation and ask the child how they would feel in that situation.  You can also model good character for children.

Contribution provides a sense of value by being able to make a difference.  Children can contribute in many ways.  Age appropriate chores are one way to contribute in a household.  Having children contribute to a meal by preparing a portion of it is another way.  Encourage children to contribute in age appropriate ways to serve the needs of others by volunteering their time and skills.

Coping is the ability to handle stress appropriately.  We cannot escape all stress and some stress is normal but children who have experienced trauma may stay on high alert and even mild stress can cause excessive anxiety.  Healthy life choices like getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating well can reduce stress.  Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and meditation can also be beneficial. 

Control is the knowledge and ability to affect an outcome.  Children need to be able to make choices and to see how those choices affect their lives.  Ideally, you would give children opportunities to take control over smaller situations and work their way up to more significant situations.

So, even if the children in your life aren’t naturally resilient, you can help them to build these valuable skills leading to more resilience.

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