Children's Ministry, Faith Nurture
5 Factors That Influence Resilience in Children
May 28, 2020
Updated June 2, 2020
0 comments 1048 views Posted by Faith Formation Ministries
In a recent online roundtable with children’s ministry directors, some colleagues and I were considering how the COVID-19 pandemic that we’re all grappling with will affect children. Topics we talked about included these:
As we talked, an unexpected topic that came up was that of resilience. Children, like adults, encounter hardships, such as the current global pandemic. Sometimes the losses they experience are relatively small, like grieving that they are no longer learning in a classroom. Other times the loss is significantly larger, such as a death of someone they love.
Children’s grief is often displayed in acting out or lashing out. Sometimes it manifests as oppositional or isolating behaviors, or even self-harm. Psychologists study what factors can help a child get through times like this. The term “resilience” is used to indicate the ability to deal with and recover from hardships or difficulties in life. Clinically, for children it means that they are able to continue to reach developmental milestones and continue to develop emotionally in ways appropriate to their age and ability. Children who are resilient still grieve their losses, but they manage to grieve in ways that do not completely derail their lives.
Shelly Melia, a therapist and professor at Dallas Baptist Seminary, became interested in studying resilience after her husband was killed in an automobile accident, leaving her with three young children. Her video presentation Raising Resilient Children: 5 Tips for Parenting Through a Pandemic is helpful.
Melia says there are five “keys,” or protective factors, that contribute to a child’s capacity for resilience:
Melia says that children who do not have all five of these factors often still do fine, as they lean into the factors that they do have. And many traumatic experiences only affect one or two of the resilience factors. A divorce, for example, might affect the family while leaving other factors intact. COVID-19, however, is a population trauma. It is a large-scale disaster (like, for example, Hurricane Katrina) that impacts all of the resilience factors, making life especially difficult.
While some therapists ignore the role of faith, faith can have an impact on each of the other four protective factors. This is certainly one place where the church can play an active role. We can encourage families to notice the times God has helped them. Invite them to be specific, perhaps creating a chart on the wall in their home where they can write things as they think of them. This is one way to recall and tell stories of God’s protection and care.
Some other suggestions for supporting children faithfully are:
God does not promise to bring us through times of hardship on any particular timeline, but God does promise to walk with us all the way. As we continue in this pandemic, the church and the larger faith community can help shape the narrative of how God continued to love and care for people—adults, teens, and children alike—as the whole world deals with this sickness. We need to be prepared to be salt and light as, with God’s help, we come through this together.
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