Resilience? What do you mean?

During #safeguardinghour last night, we were chatting about resilience. It started because I am loving the Winter Olympics and there’s been a lot of talk about resilience and mental strength.

Clearly being a top athlete, you need to be able to focus and bounce back quickly from any set back or knock within your training or performance.

However, I’ve also noticed this word, resilience, be used to describe children and young people. It started to notice it several years ago, when professionals would talk about children who were hearing/witnessing domestic abuse. I’d hear comments like ‘in spite of the parents animosity, the children are remarkably resilient’ or ‘they are resilient children, they’ll be fine.’

I wanted to know what other professionals thought about the use of this term when we talk about children and young people.

For my part, this word worries me.

By describing children as resilient we can sometimes forget that they may need support. It can also mean that we forget that there was a trauma or harm which the child has reacted to.

Sometimes, children will be okay, inspite of the harm a child has suffered. But for others, that won’t be the case. Not every child will the same when a trauma has occurred. Not every child will cry or make it known that they have been hurt.

To return to the domestic abuse example, we have all seen the adverts of children who no longer cry as no one comes, or who don’t talk or react when they have been hurt as they have learned not to.

On the outside, children can appear to be unaffected or to have been little affected. But that can be a dangerous assumption to make.

And it is an easy assumption to make, without knowing you have made that assumption.

What is needed, it greater awareness amongst professionals. That’s unlikely something you can do in a short refresher or inset day.

There is growing evidence around the impact of abuse on children and young people. Professionals should be aware of this research and what they means for their day to day practice.

Increasing your awareness is a great step toward ensuring you are best able to help those children and young people you work with.


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