All of us have had circumstances in our lives that cause us to lose our equilibrium, that make us feel like a fishing bobber that’s been yanked under water. We can feel like we’re drowning, that we don’t know which way is up. But one way or another, we usually work our way back to the surface. We find our equilibrium. We adapt to the “new normal.”
That’s what resilience is. When changes that are unexpected or out of our control cause us to feel confused, lost, afraid, angry or even a little panicky, resilience is our ability to muster our inner resources and find our bearings again.
No one needs resilience quite like military families! Change comes early, often and usually without much notice. Military families are often characterized as resilient by nature. But the ability to bounce back from stressful circumstances shouldn’t be taken for granted as a given for military families. We may be hard wired as human beings to seek equilibrium but our ability to find it quickly, in positive ways, over and over again, is a function of resources (both inner and outer), support, and lots of practice.
It’s the youngest members of military families who are most in need of extra support and understanding when their world is shaken up like a snowglobe because of separation from or reunion with a deployed parent, or any of the other jarring experiences that can happen in military families.
As a caregiver and teacher of young military children, you play an incredibly important role in helping them build their resiliency skills and attitudes in the face of repeated “shake-ups.”
Keys to Resilience
One author* suggests 12 “keys” that contribute to resilience in children:
- Realistic Goals
- Appreciation of Self
- Acceptance and Comfort
- Processing Life through Productive Action
As you look at your own work with young children, can you identify ways that you encourage each of these factors? Can you see how they strengthen children’s ability to bounce back from big changes? In what ways could you be intentional about fostering resiliency skills and attitudes in young children?
We’ve gathered some resources for you, to help you learn more about resilience in young children and to give you strategies and tools to intentionally support children experiencing stressful changes.
We hope you’ll use them, share them, and add to them in the comments.
Building Resilient Kids (for educators of school-age military-connected children)
“Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure: 50 Activities to Promote Resilience in Young Children” by Nefertiti Bruce and Karen Cairone
“Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings” by Kenneth R. Ginsberg
“Resiliency: What We Have Learned” by Bonnie Benard
“Resiliency in Action: Practical Ideas for Overcoming Risks and Building Strengths in Youth, Families, and Communities,” edited by Nan Henderson
*Linda Goldman in “Raising Our Children to Be Resilient: A Guide to Helping Children Cope with Trauma in Today’s World”(2004).