To Teri DiCesare, grandmother of two and housekeeper of Philadelphia at Pooh Corner day care For nearly half a century, children’s resilience looks a lot like the everyday noontime scene: toddlers and preschoolers – masks, lunch outside – chatter. Devouring juice boxes. being silly.
“Resilience means adaptability,” Desisari says. “This means that children are adjusting to the change.”
There has been a lot of change and turmoil to deal with these past few years. The effect on children, especially the young ones, may be overlooked by some adults. They say things like, “Children are flexible. They will be fine.”
But it’s more complicated than that.
Children’s resilience — their ability to thrive in the midst and after crisis — depends on who they are, what their lives were like before, and how adults around them (including parents, other relatives and community caregivers) respond.
There is no doubt that recent events have had their effect. In a 2020 survey of 1,000 American parents, 71% said that pandemic negatively affected their children’s mental health. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data shows that there was a 24% increase in mental health emergency room visits for children ages 5-11 between March and October 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
Other studies have tracked the effects of climate change and violence – whether you witnessed it or experienced it – on young children, noting problems such as depression, anxiety, phobias, irritability, learning difficulties, and changes in sleep and appetite.
However, as real as the effects are, kids can move through them – with the right kind of help.
Recoil with support
Robin Gorwich, Ph.D. says, psychologist and Professor of Psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.
“But it’s not just about people getting their lives back,” says Gorwich. “There was this idea that some people were resilient and some weren’t. That just fell by the wayside. Resilience is something we can improve.”
Gurwich has seen this time and time again, as her work for more than 30 years has focused on the impact of trauma and disaster on children and their families – and evidence-based ways to help children through it.
The most important component of building and enhancing a child’s resilience, says Gorwich, is a secure, trusting relationship with an adult who can listen, nurture, and formulate healthy ways of dealing with things.
These adults do not have to be the child’s father. They may be another relative, teacher, coach, religious leader, neighbor, or other person in their life. They can help direct children toward healthy ways to manage stress, such as walking, talking about their feelings, drawing a picture, or playing with a pet.
Caregivers can also empower children by suggesting and modeling ways to take action. That could mean chalking a rainbow on the sidewalk, inviting a new student to join a game, volunteering at a pantry or any other cause he cares about. This is “finding ways to understand what’s going on,” says Gorwich.
Hardship affects children unequally
Tough things happen to everyone. But some children face severe hardship because of their race, economic status, gender identity or nationality.
“Not every child goes through structural racism, prejudices, pain and hurt,” says Ihuma Yu Iruka, Ph.D., founder of the Equity Research Action Alliance at the Frank Porter Graham Institute for Child Development at the University of North Carolina at Chapel. hill.
These biases can also cause us to ignore the daily resilience of children who have gone through more than their share of trauma.
“Every kid has strengths,” Iruka says. For example, she suggests that a child who may not be on the right track for reading “may be flexible and gentle with friends, critical thinkers, and problem solvers. We may not understand how flexible they are.”
Iruka’s tip to help boost kids’ resilience: “First and foremost, love your kids,” she says. Talk to them, read stories together, include them in a variety of social settings and people, and give them space to explore.
How adults act is also important – perhaps more than what they say. Ask yourself, “When I feel upset, do I scream and shout, or do I take a deep breath and find a way to calm down?” Gorwich says. “If the kids see us crying, it’s really important for them to see us dry our tears and move forward.”
Resilience is not something you develop on your own. People are social. We are affected by the people and systems around us. When a child has a caregiver who himself feels cared for, he or she can provide children with their best and most caring selves.
“We need to create resilient families and resilient communities,” says Iruka. “Children cannot be resilient on their own.”