If the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary has reminded us of anything, it’s that trauma and tragedy are part of our world. Try as we might, we cannot always protect ourselves or those we love.
My best friend and colleague Wanda grew up in challenging circumstances. Her parents were sent to prison when she was barely seven. Despite the best efforts of loving relatives, Wanda became “lost” in a complex system of care where she was sexually, emotionally, and physically abused again and again. Her story is one of tragic horror. She developed complex post-traumatic stress disorder and a wide array of common coping mechanisms.
But her story is also one of resiliency.
Wanda went on to become a highly successful executive producer within the media industry. In one of our recent presentations, a psychiatrist asked her how she survived. She cited first the influence of her grandfather, who gave her a strong sense of self-esteem, hope, faith, and belief in his unfailing commitment to her. Secondly, she mentioned a wider circle family members who reinforced those things in her life.
Psychologist Dr. Thomas Brunner talks about how to prepare children for trauma and build resiliency into their character. He believes five elements are crucial. In this blog post we’ll touch on the first two:
Your goal as a parent is to help your child develop skills they can use for a lifetime that will teach them how to use and leverage challenging experiences, not just tough them out.