Recognizing Resilience in Abused Children’s Narratives
Since it is impossible to avoid all risk factors in life, learning how to cope with difficulties becomes increasingly important. In Working with Abused Children from the Lenses of Resilience and Contextualization (Violeta Bautista, Aurorita Roldan, and Myra Garces-Bacsal), book listed down the factors that enable abused children to cope better than others in the in the face of adversity and what makes them resilient.
Resilience is the remarkable capacity of individuals to withstand considerable hardship, to bounce back in the face of great adversity, and to live relative normal lives. Knowing the factors that contribute to the resilience of children will allow us to construct strategies to engender resilience in children.
Here are the themes of resilience identified in the study:
Accepting and Adjusting to the Demands of Difficult Situations– Some of the more resilient children have learned to accept and to adjust to their changed circumstances. Although it was probably difficult at first, they have learned to roll with the punches. They did not let the setbacks they encountered to stall their lives nor did their horrific experiences stop them from dreaming on.
Finding Happiness in the Midst of Difficulties – Resilient children are able to see humor in an otherwise cheerless situation, which helps them feel less burdened by their problems. With laughter, their problems lose their strong grip on them. In a way, it gives them an alternate reality, a reality that provides them a refuge from their difficult experiences and it actually offers hope that not everything is as bad as they seem to be.
Competent Functioning Amidst Difficult Problems – Stressful experiences can hinder a person’s competence to function. Yet some abused children do not allow their experiences to affect them negatively. Some children possess life skills. For instance, burdened by an incompetent mother, one child decided to play the mother and showed her ability to take care of her brother. Some expressed it by devising a way to escape from their abusive employers.
Keeping the Self Sane in the Face of Traumatic Experiences – It is amazing how some children keep sane even when tragedies seem to be an ever-present reality for them. The children’s effort to keep sane and project a happy demeanour is an incredible feat in itself, choosing not to be defeated by trauma and anxiety that constantly haunts them.
Learning from Adversities – The capacity to learn from experience allows people to avoid the same mistakes in the future. It allows them to improve themselves and become better persons. For instance, one child pressured to steal by his peers learned from his experience by learning to say “no” to undue pressure. Instead of considering his time in prison a setback, he allowed himself to learn important lessons.
The Self as Teacher and Source of Valuation – Children who do well in life draw from their inner well springs when evaluating situations and finding solutions to problems. These children recognize their independence and their ability to decide on their own, basing their decisions on what they believe is good for them.
Pagtitiis or Seeing Things in Perspective – Pagtitiis arises out of a sensible evaluation of one’s options in life realizing that forbearance is the best choice for the time being. Part of the pagtitiis is the choice to shrug off, minimize, or ignore problems they cannot avoid.
Keeping a Good and Wholesome Character Amidst Deprivation – People who live in abject situations are stereotypically portrayed as disagreeable, rude, and nasty. There are a lot of children who transcend such labels. Despite their often aberrant upbringing, they come out to have good and wholesome personalities.
Having an Ethical Mindset – Goodness of character, an ethical and moral sense, and the ability to orient life according to certain principles are hallmarks of children who survive adversities. A strong sense of right and wrong has kept several abused children from acting out a desire to harm or kill their oppressors.
Being Other Centered – Being other centered is difficult for abused children because their self-worth are severely affected by their experiences. However, some defies expectations as they exhibit the ability to find good in other people, to actually go out their way to understand others, to think about the welfare of others, and to think about the consequences of their actions to other people.
Resisting Temptations – Resilient children are able to ward off or shut themselves off experiences that might suck them back to risky situations. The mettle that comes with resisting temptations comes with the resolve to change oneself for the better on a more permanent basis.
Seeing Situations as Temporary – Resilient children recognize that the bad things they are experiencing will come to pass. In a sense, this is informed by a sense of optimism and an acceptance of the changing nature of people’s experiences.
Therapeutic Construction of Reality –Some survivors reframe or reinterpret aspects of their reality in ways that help them recover from their experiences.
Recovering from Past Wounds – Abuse leaves painful physical and emotional wounds. The challenge lies in allowing the wounds to heal and in recognizing the existence of scars but not paying too much heed on them. Recognizing the scars means being able to talk about the painful experiences but not allowing it to dominate one’s life.
Realizing the existence of resiliency in children will allow us to better formulate strategies to facilitate its flow for abused children needing it the most. It will help us deal with children better and in a more informed way, devoid of unjust and unnecessary biases.
Working with Abused Children from the Lenses of Resilience and Contextualization is a book published by Save the Children Sweden, UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, and UP CIDS Psychosocial Trauma and Human Rights Program in 2001.