Building Resilience

By Rosina M. Gallagher.

When things go awry, and you land face down…

“Get yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”

Sound advice. Psychologists call this process, resilience, “the capacity to rise above difficult circumstances and keep moving forward with optimism and confidence,” according to pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg (2006, p. 4). To become resilient, however, is easier said than done. Resilience skills must be taught, and becoming adept takes time, patience and practice.

Why build resilience?

All children need to build resilience. The gifted in particular, because of general uneven development and varied intensities, may be prone to multiple stressors and be at-risk for depression and other difficulties.

· “Math and science come easy…but why can’t I read like the others?”

· “We’re polluting the earth with plastic bottles!”

· “I want to do everything!”

· “Kids hate me…they call me nerd.

· “Am I to blame for my parent’s divorce?”

· “The people in Haiti are starving.”

· “I just don’t fit in—and never will!”

· “This just isn’t good enough.”

· “Wish my big brother didn’t compete with me all the time. When he challenges me, I just lose my cool and wind up showing off.”

Statements and thoughts like these by gifted youth highlight the need to help children develop clear thinking, problem solving, social skills, and, in particular, an optimistic outlook. Indeed, optimism is key to resilience. In The Optimistic Child, Martin Seligman explains this does not mean promoting unrealistic ideas such as “look for the silver lining,” or “see the glass as half full.” Nor is it a matter of having vague, unfounded, or exaggerated evaluations of one’s abilities, such as “I’m gifted,” “I need to be perfect,” “That won’t happen to me.” Nor, for that matter, does it mean choosing to avoid responsibility or being afraid to extend one’s reach.

The national media frequently remind us that resilient individuals are successful because they push their limits and learn from their mistakes.

Babe Ruth is known for his batting prowess, but he struck out nearly twice as often as he hit homeruns.

Michael Jordan has said, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and I missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s Corporation, is known for valuing determination and persistence over talent, genius and education.

Fantasy fiction author Stephen King, has been quoted to say, “T