Summer 2013 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Resilience - Essential for a Successful Life

Resilience - Essential for a Successful Life

Resilience in the face of stress comes from having the necessary social and emotional skills to cope successfully. Resilient children demonstrate initiative, self-regulate, and draw on established relationships to cope in adverse circumstances. These skills make them resilient in school and in life. Resilient children can focus, follow directions, share, solve problems, and show they care about others.

Devereux is a non-profit organization that operates a national network of behavioral health services. The early childhood initiative is based in the Devereux Center for Resilient Children (DCRC). The three essential components of resilience described by Devereux are: Initiative, Self-regulation and Relationships.

DCRC works with parents, educators and mental health professionals to promote social-emotional health of children and their adult caregivers. The DCRC resources include assessment tools and strategies to identify and support the development of children at-risk for behavioral and academic problems. In June 2013, Devereux hosted a conference to celebrate resilience. The information in this article is drawn from this conference.

Examples of strategies that support resilience for young children include:

Initiative: Let children tell you what they think will solve a problem. Affirm what they say and ask them to think about alternatives. Mention an alternative and ask if they think it will work. Let them tell you why or why not.

Self-Regulation: Teach children how to calm themselves when they are upset by taking a deep breath through their nose and blowing it out through their mouth. Talk about an upsetting event which led to a loss of self-control. Discuss ways the situation might be better handled if it happens again. Identify feelings with words.
For example: “You seem upset.” “You (did something) that can make you proud of yourself.” Offer acceptable choices to express feelings when children are using unacceptable ways. Anticipate potential stressors, and reduce their impact by preparing children for them. When adults plan transitions well, children learn how to plan use of their time for themselves. Use positive instructions, i.e. “Do” rather than “Don’t” when stating or reinforcing a rule.

Relationships: Having good friends whom you trust and who trust you to share happy and sad feelings is a vital source of support. Children learn from adults around them about how to be a friend. Shutting off an electronic device to give your full attention to someone who is present and available to interact with you is a good beginning. Some other ways to build friendships that adults can show children are: sharing tasks and memories, showing appropriate affection, being polite, respecting the other person’s needs, being a good sport and being “fair” in games and taking turns.

Devereux publishes an early childhood checklist called the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment (DECA). The checklist asks questions about the child. The answers pinpoint social-behavioral strengths and areas that need to be strengthened. Devereux has practical guides for parents, teachers and other caregivers to help them implement the strength-based approach.

In addition to the early childhood focus, Devereux provides a national network of treatment, and educational services for older children and adults. To learn more about promoting resilience in young children, go to their website, or phone the DCRC at 866-872-4687.