Resilience doesn’t come in an animal shaped gummy supplement for good reason.

 The definition of resilience is ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’…. All I hear from that definition is “suck it up”, “harden up” and other societal or familial messages that don’t allow for ones’ authentic feeling and response to the impact of significant events that one experiences. This is especially important for our children who are being exposed to earthquake trauma and terror.
A child is no better off showing they’re stoic in the face of trauma and natural disaster if that is not their authentic feelings. Instead, the denied emotion becomes stored elsewhere in one’s body which can then manifest in other ways such as anxiety, headaches and tummy pains. Bessel van der Kolk (2014) offers brilliance in his writings of the imprint of trauma on the body in ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ (2014).
The emphasis is on the experiencing, the expression and validation of the array of emotions that one feels when they are a child. Their only task is to make sense and accept these emotions as they experience them. Only then does the embodied sense of resilience develop. We don’t achieve resilience and nor should there be accolades for one’s resilience when often the reality is the need for the acknowledgement of the impact – for children as well as adults. This often occurs within a safe, attuned relationship with the other – parent, caregiver or partner.
Researchers have noted that among the most important resiliency factors are emotion regulation skills. This ability to sufficiently regulate one’s emotions and arousal, allows access to the higher cortical regions of the brain that will initiate problem solving skills and influence one’s behavioural response. Sensory Integration, a specialization within occupational therapy (Ayres 1972, 2004) provides knowledge of the sensory motor systems and strategies for sensory modulation that addresses arousal and emotional regulation. Emotional regulation also requires an available parent/caregiver/adult that encourages and validates the child’s experience of their emotion to the situation at the time, and offers safety. Sensory modulation strategies that allows the emotional experiences and management of the overwhelm can be the act of hugging, rocking, soothing and nourishing your child with calming sensory stimulus. Tucked in tight with blankets, heavy duvet, blowing bubbles, dim lighting, massage, bear hugs, warm baths, firm water pressure in the shower, cosy pj’s and trampoline jumping or gentle swinging. These interactions with your child will allow sensory input to the brain that has an overwhelming, organising impact, effectively allowing your child to hear your words, to settle within themselves and dampen down their arousal system that is screaming ‘fight, flight or freeze’.
The brain grows with experience – repressing emotions in order to “carry on” doesn’t allow for this process. As a result, children don’t understand, validate or process their own emotions in response to situations. They develop injunctions or unspoken ‘rules’ around “be strong”, “try harder”, “don’t feel” and “don’t be you”. These injunctions or messages heard within their own internal dialogue will start to shape and influence their sense of self and all interpersonal relationships.
Resilience may very well be the destination…. but there is so much more involved during the journey there that really needs attending to.