Building a Sense of Resiliency

Resiliency refers to the ability to bounce back and to not be defined by negative circumstances. Resiliency helps individuals cope with the highs and lows of life and respond to stress in a healthy manner. It is achieved through gradually developing social, emotional, cognitive, and other competencies and is important in the early development of key behavioral health processes such as self-regulation and self-efficacy. These processes greatly influence youth learning and achievement in life (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2007).  Increased youth resiliency is directly correlated to an increased sense of self-mastery, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging as well as the capacity to cope with adversity (Institute of Medicine, 2009).

Resiliency develops over time and is impacted by the interaction of risk and protective factors, other contextual conditions and an individual’s traits and abilities (Hawkins, Catalano, & Arthur, 2002). The Search Institute’s Framework of Developmental Assets identifies factors that communities and schools can influence that contribute to healthy development, such as: support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies, and positive identity (Search Institute, 2013).

While many children and adults living in poverty exhibit remarkable resiliency (Seccombe, 2002), nurturing resiliency is especially important among our most vulnerable populations. The social and emotional stressors of poverty not only increase the risk for substance abuse in our young people, but also affect behavioral health outcomes (Institute of Medicine, 2009). In addition, poverty has been correlated with several other negative effects including increased risks for mental health issues, violent behaviors, crime, and suicide (Evans & Adams, 2009)

Students need support in developing the social, emotional and cognitive skills that lead to having a strong belief in self, the ability to bounce back and not being defined by negative circumstances. Strong mentoring programs include these important components that result in increased levels of resilience for students.