TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the sixth installment in a series based upon the book “Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Kids Roots and Wings” by Kenneth Ginsburg. Find Parts 1-4 at www.tahoedailytribune.com, keyword “Resilience.”
While it is true that children with strong resilience are self-sufficient and independent, they are also interdependent with other people. Human connection provides reassurance that we will be okay despite tough times. But beyond times of crisis, connection also provides a higher level of security that gives us joy, and a comfortable base, that permits us to take chances that allow us to come closer to our full potential.
Children do best with multiple circles of connection to feel secure and protected at home, at school, and in the community. Children with close ties to family, friends, school, and community are more likely to have a solid sense of security that produces strong values and prevents them from seeking destructive alternatives.
Family is the central force in any child’s life, but connections to civic, educational, religious, and athletic groups can also increase a young person’s sense of belonging to a wider world and being safe within it.
One adult can make a critical difference in a child’s life. Resilience research and literature consistently demonstrate that guidance and support from a caring adult are pivotal in determining whether a young person can overcome challenges. Hopefully children will have several supportive people in their lives — parents, relatives, peers, teachers, coaches and clergy.
For parents, the crucial starting point is empathetic listening. Children need to feel listened to and respected. When we are empathetic toward children, we create an emotional safety net. They feel secure in coming to us with problems. When they are in trouble, they know we will listen without sarcasm, criticism, or blame. When they make a mistake, they know we will help them correct it without condemnation. Ginsburg very strongly points out that it is not our job to have all the answers: “Don’t worry, just listen. If you can be a sounding board, you will help him figure things out.”
Give yourself the gift of losing the fantasy that you’re supposed to have all the answers.
Some questions to ponder when considering how connected your child is to family and the broader world include:
Do we build a sense of physical safety and emotional security within our home?
Does my child know that I am absolutely crazy in love with him?
Do I understand that the challenges my child will put me through on his path toward independence are normal developmental phases or will I take them so personally that our relationship will be harmed?
Do I allow my child to have and express all types of emotions or do I suppress unpleasant feelings?
Is he learning that going to other people for emotional support during difficult times is productive or shameful?
Do we do everything to address conflict within our family and work to resolve problems rather than let them fester?
Do we have a television and entertainment center in almost every room or do we create common space where our family shares time together?
Do I encourage my child to take pride in the various ethnic, religious, or cultural groups to which we belong?
Do I jealously guard my child from developing close relationships with others or do I foster healthy relationships that I know will reinforce my positive messages?
Do I protect my friends’ and neighbors’ children, just as I hope they will protect mine?
Next week: The 4th C: Character.
Teri Andrews Rinne is the children’s services librarian at the Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave. Call 530-582-7846 or visit www.mynevadacounty.com/library.