The future of any society depends on its ability to foster the healthy development of the next generation, which can be easily derailed by trauma. Trauma is a natural part of the circle of life, but without resilience, the trauma will persist, causing excessive or prolonged activation of the stress response systems in the body (especially the brain), with damaging effects on learning, behavior and health across the lifespan.
What is resilience? The formal definition is “a process where by an individual demonstrates positive adaptation despite significant adversity or trauma that can threaten one’s stability or development.” In layman terms, resilience is a protective factor that enables us to counter the risk factors that endanger our well-being.
With trauma being a natural part of the circle of life, it is impossible to protect our children from all types of trauma. In fact, learning how to cope with adversity is an important part of healthy child development. Children need to develop strengths, acquire coping skills, recover from hardships and be prepared for future challenges. From the first day a child is born, we have the opportunity to equip them with the tools needed to face challenges, including trauma, which can also be called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
Since we cannot eliminate ACEs entirely, we need to focus on reducing the types of trauma in our control while also providing children with the tools to respond to life’s challenges. We need to build resilience not only in children, but within families, communities and the systems that support both. By implementing the Strengthening Families Five Protective Factors, we can help build the resilience communities need to create a safe and nurturing environment for our children.
How Can You Build Resilience?
- Help children focus on individual strengths versus weaknesses
- Encourage children to make decisions by giving them options
- Recognize the competencies of siblings individually and avoid comparisons
- Recognize a child when he or she has done well
- Praise honestly
- Set aside family time
- Address conflict openly in the family to resolve problems
- Demonstrate the importance of community by volunteering with your children
- Talk about how behaviors affect others
- Model generosity
- Talk about how choices determine results and that life’s events are not purely random
- Learn that discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling
Amazing Brain Resources
Apps for Raising Happy, Healthy Children
The Amazing Brain: What Every Parent and Caregiver Needs to Know
The Amazing Brain: Trauma and the Potential for Healing
The Amazing Teen Brain: What Parents Need to Know
The Amazing Teen Brain and Discipline: Positive Parenting Builds Healthy Brains