Why is it that some people are able to overcome childhood trauma and become active, thriving adults and others are crushed by it and never recover? That question has plagued me through the years, and I wished I could figure it out.
Now, though, research has finally given us some answers. We have figured out that the following elements were present in the childhoods of those who became resilient:
- Other people helped their mother and father take care of them and made them feel loved.
- Someone in the family enjoyed playing with them when they were an infant.
- There were relatives who made them feel better if they were sad or worried.
- They felt like their parents’ friends or their neighbors liked them.
- Teachers, coaches, youth leaders, or ministers were there to help.
- Someone in the family cared about how they were doing in school.
- When they felt really bad, they could almost always find a trusted person to talk to.
- People told them they were capable and could get things done.
Here’s what most people don’t understand: there are SO many children who are living lives of quiet desperation in homes that are filled with chaos and neglect. They are children who we see going in and out of school every day, attending our church every week, coming home with our (grand)children to spend the night or to play, playing in the band, playing sports or perhaps even some at our family reunions. The thing is, you can never tell which kid is struggling simply by looking at them. They are as good as we adults at hiding the truth and pretending that everything is all right.
So, here is what we need to do—we need to go out of our way and speak a kind, encouraging, word to EVERY CHILD we have any contact with:
- It can be as simple as stopping them, squatting down until we are eye level with them, and saying, “I just want you to know that I believe in you, and I’m praying for you.”
- Tell them they are special and one of a kind.
- Let them know that you are there for them if they ever need to talk or a place to stay.
- Pat them on the back and tell them something specific that you like about them (their smile, their attitude, their eyes, their hair, their spirit).
- Ask them how they are doing in school, and no matter the answer, tell them not to give up, to keep on trying, to do the best they can.
I challenge everyone to be the kind of candle that lights the candle in the life of a child.