1) Myth: Resilient youngsters must be pessimists.
Reality: Not so. Many people mistakenly believe that resilient children and teens must be cynical or pessimistic, but actually the opposite is true.
According to PBS This Emotional Life resilience can be defined as, “the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe.” A 15-year study by Dr. Martin Seligman found that optimism is the key to fostering emotional strength. Resilient young people are realistically optimistic. They don’t blindly see pie in the sky at all times. Instead, they willfully seek the silver lining within dark clouds, preferring to focus on the good in difficult situations.
2) Myth: Adversity automatically leads to predetermined consequences.
Reality: Nothing could be further from the truth. The ABC model of resilience proposed by Albert Ellis in 1962 posits that adversity leads to beliefs leads to consequences.
Basically, adversity is any problem in your life. Your beliefs include any thoughts you have after the problem has occurred. The consequences include the actions you take or emotions you feel in reaction to those beliefs.
Here is an example that follows reality #1:
Fifteen-year-old best friends, Morgan and Juliette, are in a car accident. Morgan enters a downward spiral. A broken leg injury means she can’t play on her volleyball team. Depressed, Morgan withdraws from school and friends.
Though Juliette also suffers from a broken leg and must quit the volleyball team, she uses the additional time to study more and receive better grades. Instead of sulking, she joins the debate team and flourishes.
Why does Juliette thrive while Morgan flounders? It’s all in their thinking. Rather than succumbing to negativity, Juliette chooses to remain optimistic in the face of adversity. Rather than dwelling on what she can’t do because of her injury, she finds positive ways to spend her time that benefit her life.
3) Myth: Resilience is best developed on your own.
Reality: Resilience is best developed in a community, not in a vacuum. Young people who have strong community ties, including family, friends and school, are more likely to develop solid feelings of security that are the basis for resilience.
Dr. Lynn O’Grady, community psychologist and Senior Education Officer at Melbourne’s Catholic Education Office, stresses the importance of mirroring when it comes to young people viewing the behaviors of adults in their community. “If children are surrounded by adults who model resilience through their own behaviors as well as by explicitly teaching and practicing the social and emotional skills, they will be more likely to develop resilience themselves.”
Though family is the most significant focus of any child’s life, external social connections highly impact a young person’s sense of belonging to the wider world.
In conclusion, it is important for all of us to consider the following when contemplating the true nature of resilience as it relates to our children:
-1) How does optimism impact a child’s ability to cope with adversity?
-2) How do beliefs affect the consequences of our actions?
-3) Why is it so important to create strong community ties for young people?
For more related info on resilience, please find the following helpful resource from the American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience.aspx