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Children of Adversity

Have you ever wondered why some people deal with adversity better than others? We all experience conflict, stress, and emotional pain throughout our lives, but some seem to overcome adversity while others remain stuck. Whether the adversity is loss, abuse, trauma, or turmoil, reactions can vary widely from person to person. There are the silent sufferers and the active sufferers. Silent sufferers may absorb the pain, blame themselves, and get stuck in the victim role. Active sufferers may lash out, engage in destructive behaviors, and sometimes rely on addictions to cope with their pain. Still other sufferers are able to channel their adversity into productive and positive activities like academic achievement, athletic accomplishments, and/or career success. Our ability to adapt, cope, and bounce back from stressful situations determines our level of resilience.

Multiple studies have found that 75 percent of children and teens have been through multiple adversities in their life prior to the age of twenty. Studies have also found that resilience is a potent protective factor in preventing and dealing with adversity and bullying in children. Resilient children are better able to deal with external pressures, setbacks, and trauma. Research shows that people who experience more adverse childhood experiences are more likely to have lasting physical and mental health problems. Yet family, social, and community support helps protect kids from long-term problems. Other studies have shown that children with a plan do better at overcoming adversity. Additional research found that strong parent connections help children cope with adversity. More specifically, parents who provided their children with warmth and nurturance as well as rules and consequences enhanced their child's level of resilience. Studies found that teaching our children to develop the skills they need to deal with problems instead of seeking to protect and insulate them from problems produced better results. We should work on building our children's self-confidence, problem-solving ability, autonomy, and sense of purpose which will give them greater strength and resolve.

Those individuals who successfully develop resilience can achieve great things in life. Many super-successful people have been through tremendous hardship and turmoil during childhood. Their drive to survive has often been redirected into athletics, academics, and/or business success. While many of us learn ways to adapt and cope with life's stressors, the key is to find a healthy balance that produces a positive outcome. For example, a work addiction may enable an individual to avoid feeling or confronting their emotional pain, but it is not a healthy coping mechanism. Working reasonable hours while finding other outlets such as exercise in moderation and developing connections to family and friends produce healthy lives. We should strive to surround ourselves with a positive and supportive network of people and engage in activities that give us purpose and fulfillment. If you have a faith, lean into it and gain strength from your relationship with God. Resilience built through adversity helps to navigate life's certain disappointments and challenges not only for us but for our children.

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