What Resilience Looks Like and How to Build It
Re.sil.ience: noun 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that connections, acceptance, hope, positivity, perspective, self-discovery, and self-care all play a part in building resilience.
WHAT RESILIENCE LOOKS LIKE
My son fell out a window and fractured his skull when he was three. During his recovery, one refrain grounded me: children are resilient. I heard it from the kind social worker who interviewed us outside the triage room; from the heroic nurse who walked us through what was happening; and from dear friends and family members who offered support and comfort. The refrain was meant to reassure us. He would recover. He would be okay.
Thankfully, he did recover and he’s thriving. He’s a bright, charming, compassionate teenager; but he struggled to get to this point. It took a lot of work on his part and mine to overcome the frustration, exhaustion, and anxiety a traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cause. He embraced counseling and built an arsenal of coping skills and his effort continues to propel him forward.
ARE KIDS NATURALLY RESILIENT?
The myth that all children are resilient has been debunked. Most children are physically resilient. Their bones are still growing, generating calcium in the act of growing denser, which speeds up the healing process. However, their brains are tricky. The brain can heal itself, but to a more limited extent than bones. The healing process for the brain involves strengthening alternate pathways to the ones that were damaged. Damage can be physical or psychological.
Aside from the physical healing, head trauma requires emotional healing. My son’s emotional healing, and mine, has been an ongoing process that required school accommodations and counseling to overcome obstacles and anxiety triggered by the trauma. Facing mortality at a young age can be jarring, especially for a deep thinker like my son.
EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL
Not everyone’s child suffers a traumatic brain injury, but I’ve met many people with equally, if not more, harrowing stories. The part I love the most about any of these stories, is how the individual finds the strength to overcome and move forward.
Through accidents, divorce, illness, and death, my family has embraced the power of coping skills. From practicing mindfulness to creating a calm atmosphere in our home, we have prioritized the mental well-being required to move forward. Resilience is a part of my family’s vernacular.
THE NECESSITY OF RESILIENCE
Resilience isn’t just essential for those who have experienced trauma, it’s essential for everyone, especially during these trying times. By now, we’re aware of the alarming increase in anxiety and depression among our youth. This growing awareness has prompted a variety of responses from the healthcare, education, and human service sectors. A common response is that children, and their parents, need to build resilience. How do we do that? Through connections, acceptance, hope, positivity, perspective, self-discovery, and self-care.
During the years of recovery, I felt fortunate to have amazing resources to tap into. The programs offered by Raising Resilience and other local entities fostered the connection, perspective, and self-discovery I needed. They also offered hope, positivity, and encouraged self-care. I didn’t set out to work for Raising Resilience, it happened organically, but it feels very appropriate at this time in my life. I’m passionate about connecting parents to the resources they need to thrive in their parenting journey, in turn helping their children thrive.
BUILDING RESILIENCE IS A PROCESS
In addition to the seven attributes listed by the APA, I would add purpose. When I opened up about my family’s journey, something powerful happened. Other people shared their journeys with me. I noticed over time that the people who found or deepened the sense of purpose in their lives after great difficulty, exhibited an increased capacity for resilience.
I don’t consider myself tough and I can’t say our recovery was quick, but our capacity was certainly stretched and strengthened. So, I 100% agree with the APA’s approach. We accepted our circumstances; connected with people and resources that helped us overcome them; recovered hope for a positive future; gained perspective through self-discovery; and healed by practicing self-care. We also gave ourselves space and grace. Space to process what had happened and grace to shift priorities until we were strong enough to handle more.
Building resilience is a one-day-at-a-time process. It’s also a humbling one because it’s not always pretty. However, the result is worth the effort and it’s a process my children are learning and will hopefully practice and apply for the rest of their lives.
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