Resilience is a mixture of nature and nurture. Attributes that some children are born with, such as good intellectual ability and a placid, cheerful temperament, are associated with resilience. Children who are born prematurely and/or with disabilities, who cry and cannot be comforted, who cannot sleep or who will not accept being held are more vulnerable to adversity and may be less likely to be resilient.
There are, however, many other qualities associated with resilience which develop through children’s life experiences — the main ones can be summarised as follows: Good self esteem derives from being accepted by people whose relationship one values and from accomplishment in tasks one values.
Praise, on its own, will not improve self-esteem; the child him or herself has also to ascribe value to the achievement. A belief in one’s own self-efficacy means having the qualities of optimism; ‘stickability’ and believing that one’s own efforts can make a difference.
For children and young people who have had very damaging childhoods the creation of ‘survivor’s pride’, i.
e. the ability to value how far they have overcome huge adversity in their lives, is helpful. Young people’s sense of self-efficacy is enhanced by taking responsibility and making decisions. Initiative is the ability and willingness to take action, including action to stop abuse occurring. Children and young people facing adversity are in a stronger position to deal with it if they are able to take the initiative in finding ‘creative’ responses.
This sometimes combines with a strong sense of responsibility towards others such as siblings. Faith and morality can be described as ‘a belief in a broader value system which can help the child to persist in problem solving or in surviving a set of challenging life circumstances. A sense of coherence in their experiences gives the child a feeling of rootedness; the conviction that life has meaning and an optimistic focus’ (Daniel, Wassell and Gilligan 1999. Trust is believing in or relying on another person or thing.
In order to trust others, you do not need to love them but you do need to experience them as reliable, feel respect for them, value them and not expect them to betray your confidences. Attachment is ‘an affectionate bond between two individuals that endures through space and time and serves to join them emotionally’ (Klaus & Kennell 1976, quoted in Fahlberg 1994). A secure attachment relationship creates a secure base from which a child feels safe to explore the world.
Many looked fter children whose primary attachment figures have been unsupportive or unpredictable are able, fortunately, to find other attachment figures. In fact, one sign of resilience in children is the ability to ‘recruit’ caring adults who take a particular interest in them. This could be a neighbour, friend’s parent(s), teacher, child minder, relative, mentor or befriender, foster carer or, of course, residential worker. The concept of a secure base originally related to the security provided by a dependable attachment relationship.
However, in the context of looked after children it has developed a wider meaning i. . the provision of a consistent and stable place to live and continuity of wider relationships which then allow the maintenance or development of attachment relationships. Where placement moves are absolutely unavoidable, strenuous efforts should be made to maintain continuity in other aspects of children’s lives. Meaningful roles: Such roles include proficiency at academic and non-academic activities at school, sporting prowess, part time work, volunteering, caring for siblings, and domestic responsibilities, provided they are not excessive.
Such roles are likely to have a positive effect in several ways — they can be beneficial in providing a sense of positive identity and a source of self-esteem, they may act as a source of pleasure and hope or distract young people from the adversity they are experiencing in other areas of their lives. Autonomy means the ability to make decisions. Young people who are autonomous know that it is OK to make mistakes and that you can learn from mistakes. They take reasonably well calculated risks. Autonomous children and young people are good at self-regulation — they gain increasing control over their own emotions and behaviour.
Identity: Young people in care have a deep need to know and understand who they are, where they belong and to whom they are important. They may need help to find these answers. Children and young people’s ethnicity, religion, culture and language form part of their identity. Preservation of their background and culture helps to create continuity and a secure base; it is also a legal right. Young people, who have good insight into their own difficulties, including a realistic assessment of their own contribution and the contribution of others to those difficulties, are more likely to be resilient.
Young people who are able to recognise benefits, as well as negative effects, from severe adversity are likely to be resilient. Insight helps people to take appropriate actions and make appropriate choices. It is therefore linked to self-efficacy and to initiative. Humour is the final building block of resilience. It can help young people to distance themselves from, and therefore reduce, emotional pain and it can also help them make and sustain relationships — humorous people are usually popular people.