Resiliency – What helps one child succeed while another fails?

The following article was published in ADDvisor newsletter earlier this year. We are publishing this article in our newsletter with kind permission from Alan Graham and Bill Benninger of ADDvisor.

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Too often we see kids who seem to have nothing going for them yet they seem to grow and develop. What contributes to their success? Lewis Lipsitt, in the Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, called them ‘dandelion kids’. They grow anywhere. Patti Bortko, an educator at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville Head Start, Violence Education and Counseling Center, lists five resiliency factors that help kids succeed: 1) the presence of a safe, strong, sane, respectful adult who cares such as a parent, relative, teacher, friend, etc.; 2) the availability of safe havens- a classroom, church, friend’s house, community center, etc.; 3) the ability to use play and any work to work out their feelings and integrate the experience; 4) the ability to escape into healthy interests and projects; and 5) the ability to learn effective coping skills.

The safe, sane adult can model appropriate behavior; provide consistent age appropriate guidance and expectations; is positive in language and discipline; accepts individual differences and is encouraging and empowering. While the ideal person to provide this is a parent, sometimes a relative, friend or teacher is available to mentor a child. A safe haven is one where there is structure and stability. The environment is orderly with adequate ‘quiet’ space and privacy. There is an attitude that it is okay to make mistakes. Again the ideal safe haven is home but for some, the child must find their safe haven away from home.

Children who can use play and work to work out their feelings feel encouraged to socialize with others and to draw and write about their feelings. They use a variety of mediums to express themselves and are encouraged to do so by caring adults. Providing opportunities to develop healthy interests and projects can help keep kids away from gangs and other groups who bring down a child’s self esteem. Developing hobbies and talents can help a child build confidence. Learning the coping skills necessary to live in this world can help a child to weather many a storm. Concern for others, anger management, expression of feelings, conflict resolution, problem solving, concern for others, acceptance, cooperation and negotiation are all coping skills that child need to become successful adults. Having ADHD may make the development of these coping skills a much more difficult task.

By searching for resources, developing support groups , coordinating with teachers and others who are part of our children’s lives, involving our kids in after school activities, accessing appropriate treatment, we can help build our ADHD child’s resiliency. It is a ongoing task but one that reaps its rewards when we see our children successfully negotiate one life event after another.