NUMBER 355• 12 SEPTEMBER 2003 • PROMOTING RESILIENCE
INDEX OF QUOTES
Over the past 3 years, I have had the opportunity to work as a program coordinator and group facilitator at an inner-city elementary school in Montreal. I have also worked as a group therapist at an adolescent treatment facility. My observations have led me to conclude that human development is far more unpredictable than traditional models of development would have us believe. My vision of the ideal intervention model rests on five fundamental assumptions about human development. These assumptions permeate the empirical and clinical literature.
Assumption 1: With a sudden twist of fate, some children who have experienced early successes may later experience failures, and vice versa, as personal resources and/or environmental conditions change.
Assumption 2: The capacity to sustain competence under adversity is dependent upon a continual supply of environmental supports that meet basic developmental needs.
Assumption 3: Children are continually adapting to their environment for better or for worse.
Assumption 4: When children are faced with chronic stress, it becomes necessary to preserve adequate functioning in selective life domains at the expense of unsuccessful functioning in others.
Assumption 5: What children bring to their experiences in terms of their attitudes, perceptions, and expectations is just as important as the experience itself. Their attitude of willingness to find meaning in their challenges may be necessary to maintain competent functioning as well as to promote recovery from their psychological harm.
Moving from Discourse to Action
Seita, Mitchell, and Tobin (1996) proposed a set of principles as a guide for intervention that are compatible with my five assumptions. The first principle is that of connectedness, which they defined as the experience of strong and reliable interpersonal relationships. Practitioners can encourage connectedness among children, their parents, and community leaders by including them in the negotiation of programs. Such a sense of connectedness can be promoted by encouraging the formation of buddy systems, which can be organized to address specific needs of parents, teachers, and children. Through their willingness to share their power of decision making with parents and teachers, practitioners are sending a message: They play an important role in nurturing and caring for children.
The second principle is that of continuity, which is defined as a sense of stability and belongingness to a group. Initial positive changes in children’s adjustment tend to diminish when there is no stability in environmental supports. Similarly, without a sense of belongingness to a group, families may fall apart under cumulative stresses. Practitioners can promote a sense of continuity by including in their intervention models a comprehensive system of services to address individual and family needs at every stage of personal development and family life. Once again, all parties involved would need to support and maintain such services.
The third principle is that of dignity, which is defined as respect and recognition. Instilling a sense of dignity in children entails tailoring interventions to meet their developmental needs and cognitive maturity. Involving children in the formation of program rules (e.g., how to handle disputes and conflicts) and encouraging them to evaluate the content of a program’s activities are concrete ways that practitioners can show respect toward children. Intervention strategies must also be more sensitive to cultural differences, backgrounds, and spiritual beliefs.
The fourth principle is that of opportunity, which is defined as capitalizing on personal strengths. Schools provide a fertile ground for the development of talents and abilities. Practitioners need to work with teachers in identifying those hidden signs of talent or abilities, which hold promise for future successes, during those abysmal periods of maladjustment. According to Gardner (1987), each child has a unique profile of varying intellectual abilities: linguistic, logical—mathematical, musical and bodily—kinesthetic, spatially intelligent, and interpersonal and intrapersonal. The extent to which children possess and use each of these abilities tells us something about those skills that have been most important to them in dealing with their challenges. Once identified, such abilities would need to be documented and subsequently reinforced in structured activities. Seita (1994) referred to such a task as the “Talent Search”. Family members can also be invited to attend workshops—or be offered home-based services— structured to identify and strengthen each member’s personal abilities.
MIRELLA DE CIVITA
De Civita, M.(2000). Promoting Resilience: A Vision of Care. Reclaiming Children and Youth. Vol.9 No.2 pp 77-78