Building Resilience: How to work with the crisis that brought a child into my home.

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Recap from our last blog: You are embarking on your own journey. It may be different than your neighbors’ or relatives’ adventures. Like the very signature of a human being’s DNA, each of us is different and your family is going to be different. In fact, there may be more commonalities than meet the eye. “Meeting yourself where you are at,” and accepting where you are at in the journey, will be a positive start. Consider refraining from reflecting on past events and wishing things would have turned out differently. If that happens, acknowledge your feelings and redirect yourself back to be mindfully in the present. Consider reaching out for help to process this new change in your family dynamic in whatever way would be most meaningful to you...consider talking to a friend or colleague, consulting with a local faith-based leader or mental health professional. Carving out time for your self-care, and putting on your own oxygen mask, is going to be critical to the success of your new family. Start now! 

“Meeting yourself where you are at” and working with a crisis that brings a new family member into your home will be handled differently by different caregivers across the globe. 

"While a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t recommended there are certain key approaches researchers have identified that can be helpful to keeping up positive momentum, building resilience and working with your situation, rather than against it."

For example, there are two simple tools in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) developed by psychologist Marsha M. Linehan in the late 1980s. These easy-to-learn tools are called “willing, or open hands” and “half-smile.” One of the first reactions to stress experienced by many people, sometimes even without knowing it, is a tightening of muscles. An intentional opposite reaction to stress when there is no immediate danger would be to turn your hands, palms up, to be willing to receive the stress. This can actually begin to change your mood. Similarly, whereas a grimace or scowl might stimulate a negative feeling, trying to create a half-smile expression physiologically stimulates a serene feeling. Give it a try! 

Now that you have a few more tools in your toolbox, let’s take on a much bigger topic that you can work on in the long term...building resilience. While psychological stress alters brain function, scientists believe you can train yourself to be more resilient. Dr. Dennis Charney, world-renowned neurobiologist and co-author of Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life's Greatest Challenges created a webinar, complete with a Q and A session, where he identifies 10 ways to increase resilience. Like the hand and facial muscles exercised in our DBT skills above, he believes resilience acts like a muscle, and we can develop stronger resilience, even if we didn’t get a big scoop of resilience in our genetic code. If you are feeling overwhelmed tackling and practicing ten new skills, he suggests that you don’t have to get good at all of these. Play to your strengths. Pick the skills from Dr. Charney’s list that you are already good at and work on further developing them!

  1. Develop a Positive Attitude - Optimism genes are not destiny and you can make yourself more optimistic. Develop realistic optimism, (not “Pollyanna” unrealistic optimism) and remember the importance of humor! 
  2. Develop Cognitive Flexibility through Re-Appraisal - Re-evaluate stress or trauma, accept it and recover. Try to see the “silver lining” in your current storm.
  3. Embrace a Personal Moral Compass. Altruism, purpose in life and giving positive meaning to your stress or trauma can help build resilience. 
  4. Find Resilient Role Models in your family or inspirational role models from life
  5. Face your Fears - Don’t let your trauma overcome you. While it is easier said than done, facing your fears can help you build self-esteem.
  6. Develop Active Coping Skills
  7. Establish and Nurture a Supportive Social Network. Locate a support group or join an online community.
  8. Attend to Physical Well-Being - Mental heartiness, mood, and self-esteem are impacted by growing more physically fit. Carve up some “you” time, even if you start with a nutrition plan or daily walk around the block. You may find that investment in your health can promote positive health outcomes for the whole family.
  9. Train Regularly and Rigorously in Multiple Areas to Build Resistance - Look at this training the way an athlete would cross-train! For example, work on emotional intelligence, moral integrity and physical endurance. Explore these worksheets.
  10. Recognize, Utilize and Foster Signature Strengths - Stick with what works for you!

Motivated to be more resilient? Click on the links provided for the ten resilience-building skills and explore each topic in more detail. And remember you can search for mental health professionals utilizing our kinship navigator search portal on our home page. Additionally, here are other resources for building a more resilient life:

For Children:

Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D. A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings (2011, American Academy of Pediatrics)

For You:

American Psychological Association: Building Your Resilience, February, 2020

PositivePsychology.com: How to Beat Stress, Trauma, and Adversity with Resilience, February, 2020

Time: Boosting Your Resilience, April, 2016

How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson, 2018

Harvard Business Review: Building Resilience, April, 2011

Karen Reivich, Ph.D. and Andrew Shatte Ph.D., The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles, October, 2003 

We would like to enlist your help to make these resources as accurate as possible. If you are given a service provider that is not what was represented by your 211 operator, please call them back and let them know so that provider can be researched further. Please check back here as additional articles will be posted twice a month. Again, if you have a topic you would like to see covered, please email us at content@kinshipcareca.org. Thank you for visiting us, for all that you do, and we are glad to be of service to you and your family.

KinshipCareCA.org is a robust, statewide portal with the resources families need most. It is a navigation tool powered by United Ways of California, local United Way members representing regional partners statewide, and a network of private kinship service organizations. We are powered by 2-1-1 statewide resources and proud to partner with California Department of Social Services in serving California’s kinship families By using this kinship navigator portal, caregivers can find both public and private resources in their community to support their families’ needs and well-being.

United Ways of California, the state network of California’s United Ways, improves the health, education and financial results for low-income children and families by enhancing and coordinating the advocacy and community impact work of California’s United Ways. KinshipCareCA.org is a priority initiative of United Ways of California and its partner members.

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