Kids Are Resilient…. Or Are They
What Is Resiliency?
Resiliency is the ability to recover from illness, depression, and adversity unscathed. In other words, one who is resilient comes through emotional and/or physical trauma without any injury or harm to their intellectual, creative, emotional, social, physical development, or the person’s self-image, self-esteem, and self-confidence. News Flash: Young people who are victims of adverse childhood experiences are typically unable to recover completely.
All too often I hear an adult responding to situations of child abuse or trauma with comments such as, “Kids are resilient.” While these adults mean well and certainly want to present the best outcomes for abused youth, the statements are misleading. Why? Because the truth is that individuals, no matter how resilient they are, are affected by abuse whether it is physical, sexual, emotional, social, or they are neglected, pay a price. Which begs the question, how big of a price do they pay? Obviously, the more times a young person experiences adversity or the more severe the adversity, the more impact we anticipate it has on their life. And resilience is tricky.
The Resiliency Myth
It’s a myth to assume that all kids are resilient. Individuals born with traits (e.g., temperament, personality, emotional intelligence) that predispose them to think, behave, and react to adversity in resilient ways begin working effectively through adversity at an early age. In other words, they are honing their resiliency skills. Their peers, however, without these resiliency traits don’t have the same opportunities to grow or abilities to respond well.
Youth With Resiliency Skills Cope Best With Adversity
The varying resiliency skills and traits individuals have is why we see young people raised in the same dysfunctional homes respond so differently to the adverse experiences, and why the outcomes for siblings experiencing the same levels of abuse are sometimes unbelievable. One sibling becomes a doctor, the other one is a drug addict, and the other disappears and we have no idea how things turned out for him/her. Resilience is tricky because individuals born with resiliency traits may do well with a little adversity but not a lot of adversity, or they may do well with all types of adversity because they have a great support system. Resiliency traits, skills and support make the difference in the outcome.
Furthermore, young people who are naturally resilient have traits that make it easier to be liked. When we are liked we feel worthy. Feeling worthy is the best coping mechanism for adversity.
Hope For Resiliency
There is hope for those young people who encounter adversity yet don’t have resiliency traits. You may be asking… Can Resiliency be learned? The answer is Yes. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. In fact, it takes specific skills training, thought pattern practice and a big dose of awareness along the way. Parents can learn this and teach the kids in their life. Organizations that work with at-risk youth can offer this type of training to help turn the lives around of so many lost kids. And youth themselves can participate in the skill building programs that give them the tools and wisdom to use them to change their life for the better. Most organizations today, however, focus on outdated methods that are broken. The new research shows us what really works to help youth transform their lives.
My next blog talks about the skills for developing resilience.