This is a guest post from ParentIn Burlington.  ParentIN Burlington was created to empower parents and caregivers of middle school students with the support they need to help their children make healthy choices. ParentIN offers evidence-informed educational tips and resources, community engagement events, and facilitated meet-ups aimed at helping all kids live substance-free lives.

Resilience has become quite the buzz word, applied to everything from Tiger Woods, to the stock market, to goals for today’s kids.

Being tough, flexible, and recovering quickly from adversity are certainly desirable qualities, but how do we instill them in young people?

Some youth development messages focus on reducing specific health risk behaviors, for example: “don’t use drugs or alcohol”, “don’t have unsafe sex”, “don’t do dangerous activities”. But unsuccessful campaigns, like “Just Say No” from the 80’s, taught us that prevention efforts need to go beyond simply telling kids not to do certain things. That’s where resilience comes in.

While we can’t protect all kids in our community from stressful life events, we can help reduce the negative impact of such events by supporting the development of protective factors.

Protective factors that should be developed and enhanced include: supportive families; availability of caring adults; positive peer groups; a strong sense of self and positive self-esteem; goal-setting for the future and engagement in school and community activities.

This data brief from the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) presents data that demonstrate how the presence of protective factors correlate with health risk factors and behaviors among middle school students in Vermont.  Visit for the full brief.

“The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.”  – Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University

One way to understand the development of resilience is to visualize a balance scale or seesaw. Protective experiences and coping skills on one side counterbalance significant adversity on the other. Resilience is evident when a child’s health and development tips toward positive outcomes — even when a heavy load of factors is stacked on the negative outcome side. Read more about the Center on the Developing Child’s research, and protective factors that help children in the face of serious adversity here.

Search Institute has identified 40 positive supports and strengths that young people need to succeed. Half of the assets focus on the relationships and opportunities they need in their families, schools, and communities (external assets). The remaining assets focus on the social-emotional strengths, values, and commitments that are nurtured within young people (internal assets). Find out more here.

Search Institute Developmental Assets

While developing resiliency starts early in life, supportive relationships and protective factors in our environment help build resilience at all ages. More resources to help build resilience: OptionB.Org is dedicated to helping you build resilience in the face of adversity—and giving you the tools to help your family, friends, and community build resilience too.  Here are a few tips from the American Institute of Stress.

Connect with your local prevention coalition, Healthy Lamoille Valley!
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