Lesson 4: All I Need is Love: The Importance of Building Social and Emotional Resiliency in Young Children

This module highlights the role resiliency plays in helping children “bounce back” from adverse circumstances and the protective factors that help at-risk children “weather the storm.” Families will learn what they can do to help their children develop resiliency.

Developers: Nancy Lovett, Calloway RTC; Nicki Patton, Simpson County RTC

Today’s children face a very different world than the world you and I grew up in. Today’s world is full of risks and threats that could negatively impact children’s development. The world is such a scary place that it must be tempting to want to hide your children away – do whatever it takes to protect them from the dangers that lurk on the internet, in the schools, on the playgrounds and in some cases, even in our homes. ​

Yet we know in reality we can’t do enough to protect children from every danger. We cannot protect our children from the adversity that lies in front of them. ​

But what we can do is help our children develop the skills and characteristics they need to overcome adversity. And that is what this session is all about.​

These are three questions we need to look at.​

First, we will take a brief look  at the threats and risks children face because knowing the dangers is the first step in protecting our children.​

Then, we will discuss the one personal characteristic that research says can offer children the greatest protection, and that is the characteristic of resiliency.  We will define what resiliency is, talk about why it is important and conclude by identifying what you can do as a family to help your children develop resiliency.

One of the biggest threats that our children face statewide is poverty. Almost ¼ of our children live in poverty. ​

And for children living in southeastern Kentucky that number is even higher, almost 1/3. Many of these children live in what is called “extreme poverty” which means their families live at less than ½ of the poverty level, getting by on less than $7610 a year – about $20 a day.​

Annie E Casey, KIDS COUNT, 2009​

Courier-Journal, August 28, 2007​

Another threat our children face is their odds of dropping out of school and/or being born to mothers who are NOT high school graduates. In 2009 alone, 16,000 children dropped out of Kentucky schools.​

And 23% of the children born in Kentucky in 2008  were born to mothers who were NOT high school graduates (Annie Casey Foundation, 2009). And as we all know, a lack of education contributes to the cycle of poverty that we just discussed.​

And yet another threat is the risk of being abused/neglected. Children that are abused/neglected are more likely to abuse alcohol, become addicted to drugs, become pregnant as teenagers, go to prison, and die. It pains me to tell you that Kentucky had the highest rate of death due to child abuse and neglect in 2007.​

Annie E Casey, Kids’ Count, 2009

Researchers call these risks and threats that you just identified “risk factors” because they put children at risk for problems such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy, child abuse, violence and school failure – many of the things that you just identified. ​

The more risk factors present in a child’s life, the higher the odds that the child will not be successful and will become dependent upon drugs, alcohol, etc. This is documented in many research studies including all of the research by Bonnie Benard, Fostering Resiliency in Kids

Yet, all of us know “at risk” children who grew up to become productive, successful members of society.​

The question is why?​

Think of a bouncy ball

The question is why – why are some children successful when faced with the same risks as other children who may not be successful?​

  1. Refer to the Handout What Do You Want for Children?
  2.  Circle the five characteristics you believe are MOST important for children to be successful in “LIFE.”  ​All of the characteristics  help children