First 30 Days Blog

07 mar

Raising Resilient Kids

After having worked for several years with emotionally disturbed children and their families, I have learned that one of the most important keys to raising resilient children is worrying less about protecting kids from every difficulty and focusing more on helping them create positive meaning out the difficulties in their lives.

We all know that some people are able to live through intense traumatic events without becoming emotionally disturbed. On the other hand, many kids with severe emotional symptoms have experience nothing more than being misunderstood by their parents. This shows us that the intensity of an experience is not what causes traumatic stress.

The key factor in the creation of traumatic stress is the meaning that the person creates to make sense out of the experience. For example, if someone lives through a violent assault, they could decide that the experience has awakened in them a strong desire to make the world safer. They would move forward with a mission to work for good and see the experience as difficult but eventually positive. However, that person could decide the assault means the world is a fundamentally unsafe place, or worse, that they did something to cause it. In this latter example, the person would experience major traumatic symptoms.

Researchers like Robert Neimeyer, who specialize in grief and loss, have found that if someone is able to create a compelling positive meaning out of a painful experience, it can entirely mediate the traumatic effects.

The problem is that children are not able to create these kinds of meanings for themselves. They need adults to help them. I suggest that parents be proactive in helping their children create compelling positive meanings out of the difficulties in their lives in order to help them grow to be more resilient.

Tim Desmond is a therapist in private practice in Oakland, CA, and directs a mental health, day-treatment program for children. He offers phone counseling for adults and couples through his website,

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Posted by Tim Desmond on March 7th, 2011 in Health, House and Home, Relationships, Teens, Uncategorized | 0 comments

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