There is good research on why some children develop the resiliency to succeed while others do not. By finding, sharing and using the best of that research broadly we will have a major impact in individual children, their families, communities and the country.
Here is a great example.
The Bernard van Leer Foundation, which is based in the Netherlands published “A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the human spirit”. The foundation was one of the sponsors of an international study on exactly what conditions create that much-desired resiliency in some children and not others. Instead of producing dry observations, theories and then a call for more research, the principal author, Dr. Edith Grotberg translated the findings of the study into an actionable model. Links to the full report are below but here is a taste of what makes the content of this report so usable and powerful.
The Core Finding
The research found that if children develop three beliefs they are most likely to be able to overcome a broad range of challenges. The three beliefs are:
- I HAVE
- I AM
- I CAN
- I Have: Children need to feel that they have resources on which to draw
- I Am: They need to have sense of themselves as valuable, caring, respectful, confident and responsible
- I Can: They need to feel able to manage themselves, problems, their use of sources of help.
Highly User-Friendly for Mothers and Social Service Groups
The report identifies specific behaviors and even things that parents can say to their children to build the three key beliefs. The study did not target low income children in particular, but the clarity and ease of use of the findings should be particularly valuable in poor households. Busy, tired, stressed low income parents do not need to learn a lot of theory and then figure out how to apply it. There are clear behavioral recommendations that they can apply and refer to as needed.
Because children’s situations and awareness change as they grow up, Dr. Grotberg indicates precisely how those messages and behaviors should differ as the child goes through the stages of childhood:
- From birth to 3 years
- From 4 to 7 years
- From 8 to 11 years
Teachers, parents and anyone who is in contact with children can use the wisdom in this study. It makes sense, it is easy, and it enables people to inject gift of enhanced resiliency into almost any interaction with children. And is there a greater gift?
The link to the report, which is available for free in pdf or online versions. (If you like the report, let the Bernard van Leer Foundation know at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org I am sure that they will appreciate it.)
Take an Inspirational Break From Working on Problems
Working on resiliency is energizing. Focusing on how to replicate positive outcomes provides welcome relief from dealing with the problems children face in poverty. The author of this study does not claim that its recommendations are THE answer to resilience. Nevertheless the study makes a great contribution. Using these ideas, social service agencies, teachers as well as parents can create a sense of real opportunity in the lives of children. In the process, the adults will surely feel that positive sense of opportunity as well.