Tag Archives: resilience

Factors that promote resilience in children

Resilience requires using adaptive responses and strategies in face of serious hardship, in order to improve emotional and social outcomes. Imagine that inside everyone, there are internal coping scales: at one end there are protective experiences and adaptive skills and at the other end there is significant adversity and disadvantage. Therefore, when a child’s health and development are tipped in the positive direction, they are able to cope with a heavier load on the negative side.

Recent scientific research has looked into the positive factors that can help to promote resilience in children, this provides effective strategies for children to cope in the face of significant disadvantage and pressure. Five of these factors include:

  1. The combination of a) supportive, committed relationships, b) adaptive skill-building and c) positive developmental experiences; working together to create a strong foundation of resilience. This can also help to develop key skills such as behaviour regulation  and adaptation to changing environments which help to buffer children from distress.
  2. The interaction between a child’s natural resistance to adversity and their relationships with important adults builds the capacities to cope with adversity.
  3. Not all stress is harmful, it is beneficial for children to experience ‘positive stress’ which enables them to cope successfully with life’s obstacles. However when stress feels overwhelming and the child is not properly supported, the scales tip towards negative outcomes.
  4. Children who are innately more sensitive than others tend to be more vulnerable to stressful circumstances; however these children also respond in very positive ways within supportive environments. Therefore, these children require responsive, supporting relationships, especially during times of hardship.
  5. Finally, remember, a child’s early life experiences lay the foundation for a range of resilience strategies, therefore developmental experiences early in life can strengthen this foundation.

In summary, it is important that children are provided with supportive relationships with adults from their family and community, experiences of ‘positive stress’ and real opportunities for developing adaptive skills throughout childhood. The aim of this is to build resilience so that the child can cope with life’s stressors and difficulties in a positive and adaptive way. Otherwise, the child may become overly stress, anxious, weighed-down and depressed which will lead to poor outcomes through adolescence and adulthood.

Tip sheet – promoting resilience in children

Reach IN to face life’s challenges…

Reach OUT to others and opportunities that encourage healthy development.

five-ways2

Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from life’s pressures and hard times. It helps us handle stress, overcome childhood disadvantage, recover from trauma and reach out to others and opportunities so we can grow and learn.

“Resilient” people have been shown to have happier relationships and are less prone to depression, more successful in school and jobs and even live healthier and longer lives. According to researchers at the University of Pennsyvania, there are several critical abilities that are linked with resilience and should therefore be promoted in children and adults alike. The various critical abilities are described below and are accompanied by tips for promoting them in children.

Emotional Regulation

Being in charge of our emotions enough to stay calm under pressure in order to express our emotions in ways that will help rather than hurt our situation.

Tip #1: If a child is angry, the adult must set firm and loving limits on the behaviour, for example, you could say, “It’s okay to be mad but it’s not okay to hurt yourself of someone else”. Instead provide them with other options as an outlet for their angry emotions such as drawing their “mad” feelings on paper in order to express their emotions safely and help to calm down.

Tip #2: For both children and adults, one simple way to take charge if your emotions is by taking 3 deep breaths. You can ask a small child to imagine blowing up balloons, filling their bellies with air then blowing out into the balloons.

Impulse Control

The ability to stop and choose whether to act on the desire to take action, as well as the ability to delay gratification and persevere through difficulties. Controlling our impulses helps us finish what we set out to do and plan for the future.

Tip #3: We can help young children develop impulse control by modelling it ourselves and acknowledging their achievements when they control their impulses.  For example, we can say, “You did it! It was really hard to wait, but you did it!”

Causal Analysis

The ability to analyse a problem and accurately decide what its causes are. This is because it has been found that what we think about stressful events or problems affects how we feel about them and therefore affects what we actually do about them. Resilient thinking allows us to be flexible – to step back and assess the problems and to decide how to handle it best. For example; “I can’t do anything right” is replaced with “I’ll get better at this once I have more experience.”

Tip #4: To help children think more accurately and flexibly about whether a situation is permanent or temporary, you can challenge their initial assessment of the situation.

Example 1: “I never get to be first in line” can be changed by first acknowledging the child’s feeling and then offering a gentle reminder like, or “We all get a chance to be first in line. Your turn will come too.”

Example 2: “I will never be able to do…” can be changed by reminding the child of past achievements: “You seem frustrated right now, but remember, you thought you would never be able to tie your shoe laces without my help and now you can do it all by yourself.”

Realistic Optimism

The ability to maintain hope for a bright future. This kind of optimism is not about seeing only the positive things in life and turning a blind eye to negative events, it’s about seeing things as they are and believing that we can make the best out of a situation. This is also the ability to work toward positive outcomes with the knowledge that they don’t happen automatically, but are achieved through effort, problem solving and planning.

Tip #5: To help children think about a situation with realistic optimism and consider the alternative options available, teach them to ask themselves, “What else can happen now?” or “How else could I think about this situation?”

Empathy

Empathy is often described as understanding what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. It’s the ability to understand the feelings and needs of another person.

Tip #6: Developing empathy in children is done best when they themselves are understood and supported by those around them. This can also be broadened to recognising others’ feelings: “Jenny’s face looks sad, I wonder if she misses playing with her friend today,”

Self-Efficacy

This is the feeling of making a difference or having an impact in the world. It is the belief that what we do matters. People who possess self-efficacy believe that they have what it takes to tackle most of the problems they face and handle stress, this also reflects their ability to persevere.

Tip #7: This is developed through actual experience, we can help children by providing them choices that allow them to influence decisions that affect them. For example: “It’s cold outside. Do you want to wear your hat or pull up your hood?” This provides the child a sense of control over what they do but also provides an opportunity to succeed, which increases confidence.

Reaching Out

The ability to take on new opportunities that life presents and see mistakes as learning opportunities, this allows people to take risks and try new things.

Tip #8: We can help children want to try new things by pointing out “No one is perfect” and “Everyone makes mistakes. It is a part of how we learn.”

Tip #9: Adults also model making mistakes and fixing them: “Remember when I forgot to read the story yesterday? Today I’m going to read two stories.”

Tip #10: We can also remind children of what they have already accomplished, so that they can see that they are indeed growing and learning everyday: “When you were a baby, you couldn’t walk. And look at you now! You run so fast, I can hardly keep up with you.”

New Year New Habits

New Year resolutions are as much a part of the holiday season as baubles, gifts and tinsel and millions of us will soon be noting down our promises for the upcoming year. According to a study by the University of Scranton, 45% of Americans made resolutions last year yet only 8% were successful in achieving their resolution. So why is it that so few people manage to commit to their resolution?

Well, often it’s due to the unrealistic expectations people place on themselves. Don’t make your resolution a revolution: it won’t work.  It’s sometimes easy to get carried away when making our new year plans as we tend to focus on all our flaws and promise ourselves that next year will be different. Our negative brain bias forces us to remember the more negative aspects of our lives and looks, and so we swear to make changes- more exercise, less eating, more gratitude, less spending, more productive, less stress. And this is a good thing…when done rationally. When we make resolution after resolution with grand, sweeping claims to change, we are setting ourselves up for failure as there are too many demands and too much pressure. We are creatures of habit- but old habits. Once a habit is embedded and becomes part of our daily rituals, it’s usually there to stay- whether we like it or not. But getting to the point where a new behaviour becomes automatic is quite easy if we go about it the right way.

Less is more

Stanford Professor BJ Fogg’s expertise lies in creating systems to change human behaviour, or as he calls it, “Behaviour Design.” For over 20 years, he has studied human behaviour and on his site tinyhabits.com he states that throughout his research, he has found the following:

Only 3 things will change behaviour in the long term:

  1. Have an epiphany
  2. Change your environment (what surrounds you)
  3. Take baby steps

Now, as far as I’m aware, an epiphany isn’t always available. But what is more promising is that the other two factors are completely in our control and are most successful for forging new routines. Fogg’s ‘TinyHabits’ method and online program helps people ‘tap the power of environment and baby steps’ by asking participants to follow 3 easy steps when making a new habit:

  1. Make it tiny- simplify! Rather than trying to commit to doing 100 push ups a day, just commit to 1 or even 3 if you like living dangerously.
  2. Connect it to something you’re already doing. Setting an alarm or writing copious amounts of post-it notes as a reminder to perform your new habit can be quite laborious, and let’s face it, keeping up with setting an alarm is a habit in itself. Fogg’s research indicates that anchoring a new habit to a pre-existing routine is central to success. Some habits we have are pretty ingrained and we tend to do them on autopilot with very little effort or motivation, so it makes sense to utilise these rituals as a trigger. Fogg advises that the best way to start a new behaviour is to ‘put it *after* some act that is a solid habit for you, like brushing teeth or eating lunch.’ So if for example you want to practice more gratitude in the evening, focus your intention by saying “After my head hits the pillow, I will think of 1 reason to be be grateful” or if your resolution is to show more affection for your children, then commit to a ritual like, “After my son walks through the door, I will hug him for 10 seconds”.
  3. Celebrate it! In his fascinating Ted Talk, BJ Fogg asks his audience to practice a tiny habit of his choosing: flossing one tooth. The, he tells his audience to acknowledge their success by performing a little victory dance or something that reinforces their ‘awesomeness’, like a Judd Nelson style ‘fist in the air’ or shouting out “Bingo!”. By rewarding our effort and success in completing our new habit, we are much more likely to repeat it in the future.

Process over Product

Planning and goal setting is also essential. But how we view our goals can make the difference between success and failure. How many of us have hoped to start a new habit by focussing on the desired outcome: a slimmer waistline, less anxiety, more money. It seems obvious that in order to motivate us to do something we should focus on the finish line, right? Well, no. In a study by the University of California, researchers found that people who visualized the process of reaching their goals rather than just the end product were much more likely to stay motivated.

What if?

Ok, so we know how to form a habit and what will help us stay motivated but what if we start to stray? Once the excitement of starting something new has worn off, how do we stay focused and committed to our cause? Research into implementation intentions suggests that using an ‘if…then’ prompt can also make a habit more ‘sticky’, especially when anchored to a pre-existing ritual. So rather than telling ourselves, “I’m going to write in my gratitude journal every night’ change it to, “If it is bedtime, then I will write 3 things into my gratitude journal’.  This can also be used when we are faced with obstacles, such as being too tired or too busy. So again, we can try to fortify our commitment by proposing solutions to any barriers that we regularly put up and tell ourselves, “If I am too busy to write in my gratitude journal, then I will think of 3 things after I get into bed.”

Habits are hard, especially when we already have so many demands placed on us. Time is of the essence and energy is depleted beyond repair. But new healthy habits will give us more time or energy or money if we are able to stick and commit.

5 steps to stick and commit:

  1. Make your habit simple.
  2. Anchor it *after* a pre-existing ritual.
  3. Celebrate.
  4. Visualise the process not just the outcome.
  5. Use ‘If…then’ to stay on track.

Merry Christmas and ‘Habit’ New Year!

Thank You Lighthouse Institute!

Lighthouse Institute, an Australian attachment and trauma informed ‘Knowledge Centre that draws on 21 years of practice at Lighthouse Foundation, recently visited us at Pathways to deliver their trauma informed training program. Lighthouse Institute has been commissioned to provide attachment and trauma informed training programs across the country to support organisations working with those who are taking part in the difficult process of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The 2-day program was delivered by Helen Lenga, a qualified psychologist who has specialist training with children and families and who has over 30 years experience working in the field of trauma as a psychotherapist, trainer, consultant and supervisor.

Along with attendees from Kids Matter, Good Start, Bush Kids, Kids ELC and Stellar Lives, we were fortunate enough to attend four sessions concerning trauma and trauma informed practice, including ‘Understanding Complex Trauma and Trauma Informed Practice’, ‘A Trauma Informed Approach to Understanding Grief and Loss’, ‘Understanding Psychosocial Development’ and ‘Understanding and Working with Trauma Based Behaviour’.

The vast wealth of knowledge and advice that Helen was able to share with us will indeed impact on the way we work with services, parents, children and communities in the future. We would like to thank Helen, Lighthouse Institute and all of the attendees for making the event so informative and invaluable.

Don’t Stop Asking R U OK?

September has become synonymous with suicide prevention: World Suicide Prevention Day fell on the 10th of this month and Australia’s own R U OK? Day took place on the 11th. However, just because these two important dates have passed, it doesn’t mean that we have to stop starting life-changing conversations with the people in our lives.

The National Coalition for Suicide Prevention’s Response to The World Health Organisation World Suicide Report revealed that the most recent data indicates that suicide is on the increase with 2535 Australians taking their own lives in 2012; the highest number of annual deaths in the last decade.
If like many you’re not sure how to ask someone if they are in fact OK, or if you would like to equip yourself with some ideas to improve your listening skills, visit www.ruok.org.au/how-to-ask for some fantastic tips to help start a conversation.

More Social, Less Media

Tired of Twitter? Fed up of Facebook? Well you’re not the only one. 

Social media is becoming more of an oxymoron every day. With new research suggesting that our obsession with devices can negatively affect our ability to read emotional cues in other people¹, it seems that now is the time to detach from the ‘media’ and focus on the ‘social’.

Try swapping one of your digital habits for one of the activities below and take the time to reflect on how the experience differed to the one you usually have with your device.

Gaming

Family_playing_a_board_game_(3)

1) Swap Angry Birds for Hungry Hippos. Play cards not apps. Choose board games over virtual worlds. Ok, you get the message. Blow the cobwebs off those board games and arrange a good old fashioned games night with your family or friends. Use this opportunity to model and teach your children how to deal with failure and success; show your child how to bounce back from a wrong answer rather than resorting to blame or quitting the game altogether. How often do we get these opportunities to teach such a valuable social and emotional skill?

 

Posting

hand-299675_640

2) Post a letter rather than a status or pic. Even better, write a gratitude letter and then hand deliver it to your deserving recipient. Martin Seligman’s groundbreaking work on positive psychology has found that writing and hand delivering a gratitude letter increases happiness. In his book ‘Flourish’, Seligman asks his readers to ‘call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet face-to-face next week.’ He then challenges you to write a 300 word letter to the person, specifically stating what the person did and how it affected you. Once written, call the person and arrange a visit, but be vague as to why  you want to see them- the surprise element makes the experience all the more fun! When you finally get to see the person, read the letter word for word. Take the time to notice how you both react to the letter and try to manage any interruptions that crop up; ensure that they get to hear every word and understand why you are so grateful. Seligman believes that this simple act will make you happier and less depressed within one month of making the visit.

3) Photos

Social media has enabled us to acquire online catalogues of photos and videos that, if privacy settings allow, can be shared and viewed by the whole world. Gone are the days when we’d have to carefully remove the roll of film from the camera, travel all that way to the shop to get them developed and then painstakingly stick each picture into an album. Although the speed and ease that modern technology has afforded us is wonderful, have we lost something else in the process? When was the last time you looked at your holiday pictures on anything but a LCD screen? Why not take that memory card out of your camera and get a few of your favourite pictures printed. Then arrange an evening with some of the subjects in those photographs and take the time to talk about the picture and remember the moment it was taken. Or take out an old album from years ago and plan a reunion. Whatever you choose to do, try to make it sociable, fun and face to face.

 For more ideas visit wwww.socialseptember.com for a full calendar of ideas.

Mindfulness & Neuroscience Professional Training Day- Tuesday 23rd September

“The brain changes as the mind is activated in specific ways. The way you repeatedly focus attention activates specific circuits in the brain stimulating the growth of the architectural features of the brain.” Dan Siegel

“Directing attention skilfully through mindfulness is therefore a fundamental way to shape the brain – and one’s life over time.” Ric Hanson


Tuesday 23rd September 
 
Cost:    $150.00 per person, includes morning tea, lunch & handouts.

 

Venue: Pathways to Resilience Trust, 9a/10 Thomas Street, West End.

Time:   9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Parking:  There is metered parking available in surrounding streets, and we are easy to access by public transport

RSVP: click here or call 07 3169 2400

Numbers will be strictly limited – so get in early!

For more information, view our training brochure here