COMMENTARY: Children are resilient
Trauma can come in many forms, and it’s often the children of our community that are left coping for a lifetime. Luckily what we’re finding is that resiliency in children, paired with professional counseling, can reduce the negative influence of a traumatic event.
For the past two years, a family has been dealing with the trauma of their 4-year-old girl being sexually abused by her caregiver. The experience sent ripple effects through the family, and the mother became unstable and abused drugs, while the older sister who witnessed the event had trouble processing her emotions.
With appropriate therapy, the 4-year-old has been able to learn coping strategies in order to manage her emotions around the trauma, and along with her sister, is participating in a variety of relationship and skill building groups. The daughters’ improvements have benefited the mother as well; she has been able to quit smoking, gained a driver’s permit, and hold on to a job. The stability created in the home through therapy and groups has benefited the entire family.
In another case, a young local woman, living in dilapidated conditions and without a reliable source of income, found herself in the tough situation of having too many absences to graduate high school. Demonstrating incredible resolve, she’s worked to turn her situation around. With real determination and guidance, she was able to get and retain a job, and today lives in a nice apartment. Most importantly of all, she graduated with her class and is living a happy, successful life.
We see stories like this every day at United Counseling Service, where time and again we discover the incredible resiliency of children. What we do is provide youth and their families professional services that help a child overcome the challenges in their lives to have success in their future.
The youth we work with experience a variety of adverse life situations that negatively impact their day-to-day lives. Adverse life situations can include the experience of parental divorce, poverty or abuse, just to name a few. One of the many things we do at UCS is to build resiliency through the programming we offer. The greater the risk factors, the more important the role that resiliency plays in a child’s life.
Resiliency is the capacity of individuals to cope well under adversity. Resilience in children can be enhanced through a number of methods; some of the ways we do this at UCS is to provide social supports and peer support through groups, camp, psychoeducation, and mentoring.
This also provides opportunities for young people to help others through mentoring programs and volunteer work.
These all help our youth feel connected to the community, peers and adult allies, to promote a positive self-image, increase communication skills, and increase self-esteem. All of these factors modify the harmful effects of negative life situations.
Through a development based asset assessment tool, youth who participated in groups were measured for individual well-being, interpersonal skills, and social/community relationships. Of the more than 70 youth measured, their assets were increased by more than 20 percent while in our care.
Success stories are the result of the professional services we provide, paired with the resiliency of the children we work for. Parents have peace of mind knowing that staff is specially trained in evidence-based practices, such as the ARC trauma model, Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, and the Transition Into Independence Process, or TIPS model, which is the only evidence-based practice working with transitional age youth with emotional and behavioral issues.
Nearly 1,000 children benefit from services designed to help them be successful. Children up to age 22 are provided with a safe environment to learn and grow, but maybe most importantly of all, be kids.
The children of Bennington County are potentially our most valuable resource; here at UCS we’re constantly amazed at how resilient they can be.
Lorna Mattern is director of youth and family services at UCS.
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