Tag Archives: #resilience

3 Myths and Realities About Fostering Resilience in Young People

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

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Why Resiliency?

When asked about what we do when working with youth, the topic typically comes around to the subject of “building resiliency”. The word “resilience”, for whatever reason, is triggering for some and understood in different ways. Some believe the concept of being resilient means the ability to “bounce back” from a struggle or hard times, and continue moving forward. Others look at resiliency as a sort of “walling off” of the world, a way to stay immune to stress by creating a wall to protect ourselves. Finally, I have spoken to parents who look at resiliency as a focus on hard times rather than a striving for the good ones.

The answer to the question “why resiliency?” really depends on what the definition of the word “resilience” is. Taking a quick look at Merriam-Webster:

: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.

In both examples, the commonality can be seen around the “ability to return” or “become again”. The purpose of building resilience, as used by our organization and for the purpose of working with youth, is to aid young people in the understanding and integration of educational experience so that it can allow for greater personal awareness. We believe a foundation of personal awareness is what gives an individual a strong and steady place to “return” to so they can “become themselves again”.

Life is full of stress, especially as a developing youth, so having the ability to return to oneself in a calm and steady manner is one of the greatest tools we can provide. The tool of “resiliency” is what we call an “actualizer”: it creates the context for other tools to be understood and used. Examples of tools enabled by resiliency include communication with integrity, wise utilization of personal strengths, humble identification or personal needs, cultivating the ability to communicate complex emotions, among many others. Examples of techniques to create resiliency include group exercises around mindfulness, collaborative projects that tell the story of each individual member, and reflective essays around personal place and meaning.

Why resiliency? Because life can be hard, and we need to have the tools to become ourselves again.

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