Resilience Protective Factors I

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If you’ve not yet read my previous post defining what resilience is, you may want to start here.

Today, I would like to write about the “ordinary magic” we may consider as it relates to resilience, especially resilience in children and students.  Remember, it’s a complex world that we live in and learning how to consider resilience may make a positive difference.

In defining resilience, it is noted that resilience is the capacity of a “system” to adapt to disturbances (Dr. Ann S. Masten).  Humans are systems that are connected and embedded within other systems.  We don’t operate alone, we are all connected.

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“Children in a Mexican Village (1970s)” by Morna Crites-Moore, Flickr, © 2013 is licensed under CC 2.0.

To illustrate this point, consider a perfectly normal child who is doing quite well in life.  This child, a human system, lives within the family system, goes to school within the school system, and the school is influenced and affected by the community and state educational and political systems, which of course are affected by National political and economic systems.  All of this impacts the child, the little human system.

The more resilient all of the systems are that the child is connected to, the more resilient the child will be.  Resilience begets resilience and resilience has a cascading effect.

Given the complex nature of connected systems, where one starts and another begins, may make considering resilience difficult.  However, as Dr. Masten notes, resilience is more often than not the result of ordinary magic.

In her book, Ordinary Magic: Resilience in Development, Dr. Masten provides a short list for the ordinary protective factors that make up the backbone of resilience, especially in a child and student’s life.

Here is the short list of protective factors that form the backbone for resilience in our students:

  • Capable parenting and, or care giving.  This is the most important protective factor for resilience in a child’s life.
  • Other close relationships: family, teachers, pastors, friends
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Self-control.  (An important note here, is that self-control is an element of resilience, and mindfulness meditation is related to self-control.  More to come in the future on mindfulness meditation.)
  • Motivation to succeed
  • Self-efficacy
  • Faith, hope, and belief that life has meaning
  • Effective schools
  • Well-functioning communities (social ecologies)
  • Attachments play a profound role in resilience: objects, family, peers, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, romantic partners, children, home, community, spiritual bonds, cultural groups, country, pets.

The nature of the list above is why it’s called “ordinary magic.” Thousands upon thousands of people have been interviewed regarding resilience and what you read above are the ordinary protective factors that lend toward childhood resilience.

Having parents or other caregivers who love us and care about us, going to a safe and effective school during the week, trusting in ourselves and staying focused, leaning into our faith-wisdom traditions for meaning and friendship, having good close friends, and living in a safe and clean community are all simple foundations for resilience.

Back to school night in Los Angeles

“Los Angeles, CA — July 17, 2008” by Ray_LAC, Flickr, © 2008 is licensed under CC 2.0.

While the short list of protective factors is simple, ordinary, this does not mean that they are easy to nurture and develop.

I believe that we live in an era of speed and disconnection.  There is a profound lack of authenticity in our social ecologies, our spaces and places.  Most of us are so busy we can’t think straight and we are often multi-tasking.  There is a lack of focus.  It is difficult to put down our cell phone, look another in the eye, and be present and attuned to others.

While the list of ordinary magic is simple on the surface, it takes time, dedication, and discipline to nurture attachments, spend time with our loved ones, attend and participate in a faith-wisdom traditions and disciplines, to think and reflect in a genuine way on the meaning of life, and to develop problem-solving skills and self-efficacy.

The resilience that we hope to see in the future, when the adversity happens, will likely only be made manifest by the ‘grit design’ work that we put in today to develop and nurture our relationships, attachments, and other protective factors.

Do we want to be resilient and do well before, during, and after facing adversity?  Then we must take a good, hard look at the list above and start where we are and begin to grow edges.

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