Resilience is defined as a person’s ability to recover from life’s hardships, stresses and setbacks, according to mental health professionals.
Licensed clinical psychologist Michael D. Vance, PhD, director of Children’s Hospital & Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Department, says children who are dealing with challenging medical conditions should be helped to understand how resilience applies to them. He offers the recent example of a 13-year-old patient. “When I asked, ‘What does resilience mean to you?’ he replied, ‘Suck it up, deal with it. Don’t tell anyone you’re hurting,’” Dr. Vance recalls. “That misconception will not help a child who is truly hurting.”
Instead, Dr. Vance introduces children to the idea of resilience as adaptability and persistence. “It is the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable and the ability to ask for support,” he says. Dr. Vance says he looks for opportunities to foster the “Seven C’s of Resilience” in his young and adolescent patients. These Seven C’s were developed by Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“If you look at a child or adult who truly has resilience, each has some combination of these seven C’s,” Dr. Vance says. “Whether it is a child with diabetes, or a child in our weight management program, or a child in our Hematology/Oncology program, or a child with severe anxiety, it is our job to help them recognize these seven C’s and identify with them.”
Developing resilience in every child may require a personalized approach based on that child’s stresses and needs, Dr. Vance says. “By listening and identifying those needs, we can improve our patients’ quality of life and, hopefully, their conditions and outcomes.”
The Seven C’s of Resilience
• Competence. When we notice what young people are doing right and give them opportunities to develop important skills, they feel competent. We undermine competence when we don’t allow young people to recover themselves after a fall.
• Confidence. Young people need confidence to be able to navigate the world, think outside the box and recover from challenges.
• Connection. Connections with other people, schools and communities offer young people the security that allows them to stand on their own and develop creative solutions.
• Character. Young people need a clear sense of right and wrong and a commitment to integrity.
• Contribution. Young people who contribute to the well-being of others will receive gratitude rather than condemnation. They will learn that contributing feels good and may therefore more easily turn to others, and do so without shame.
• Coping. Young people who possess a variety of healthy coping strategies will be less likely to turn to dangerous quick fixes when stressed.• Control. Young people who understand that privileges and respect are earned through demonstrated responsibility will learn to make wise choices and feel a sense of control.