Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Childhood trauma is not something that I think anyone might wish for. Honestly, I had never even considered myself a survivor, a victim, or anything of the sort for the longest time. It was just something awful that happened, and I put it behind me. Childhood trauma comes in many shapes and sizes, from sexual abuse, physical, emotional, or verbal on top of possible exposure to potentially disturbing situations. While we know that some children are more at risk than others, we also know that everyone is susceptible to these adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

For my experience, I was sexually abused many times over about a year while attending an at-home child care facility. I was about four years old. I was a very shy kid, very kind-hearted, so I never even thought that what was happening was not ok or to tell another adult. They told me this is how they played and what they wanted to do, and I listened. After about a year, my family moved away, and I never spoke of the incident until I was much older. What I came to realize with the help of some fantastic therapists was that my small brain had tucked these memories away to protect me. When I was older, the shock of it all truly hit me, and there are just some things you don’t forget. I also honestly acknowledge my privilege here because so many are not so lucky. I did not cope with these traumas with drugs, sex, or alcohol but instead with trying to do work that would give back and prevent others from experiencing these same things. So many do not have the framework to do so.

When I finally confessed to my parents, they were both upset that they didn’t know and that after all the talking they had done with me about people touching me and my private areas. I was fortunate, however, to have very loving and supportive parents. I genuinely believe that the lessons they were able to give to me, despite not knowing what had happened, helped me overcome and adapt and ensure I grew up strong and resilient.

At least for us, the thing about resilience was we didn’t call it that or realize that was what it was. My parents consistently encouraged me to try new things, believe in myself, take care of my mind and body, place me in situations that would help me grow, and give me a firm foundation of support from family and other friends. I think had I not had these resources, I would have grown into a completely different person. And I understand that not all families are this fortunate, which makes the prevention work in communities, schools, and other agencies so important. Because these protective factors are what help children to overcome challenges. We wish we could protect them from everything because these are innocent little children, but the fact is we cannot. We can teach them to speak up and to believe in themselves and overcome.

My top prevention tips/ building resilience:

  1. Talk about reproductive health (body parts, functions, private areas, etc.) early and often.
    1. Resource: https://www.talkwithyourkids.org/talk-with-your-kids-timeline
  2. Create a safe space for your child to trust you and feel safe to tell you what is going on
  3. Build a support network- even if you are a single parent or without a lot of resources, schools and other local agencies have ways of helping to create these and to connect with others
  4. Ask for help. Parenting can feel lonely sometimes; the best thing to do when in doubt is to ask for help. Whether by attending a connections matter or a parent café, or any other support group for parents. Find one today that will help your specific needs.
  5. Positive self-talk for yourself and your children. Our children hear how we speak about ourselves and others. They are always listening and how we speak becomes their inner dialogue.
  6. Teach children the importance of self-care and time to themselves…by also doing it for yourself!
  7. Help your children learn or try a new skill set. Some fun examples: volunteering, planting a garden, painting, etc.
  8. Teach your kids to speak up when someone is not kind when something is wrong, when things are going incredibly well. Empower them to have a voice so they will come to you in all situations.

While we are all in very different boats in life, we are all in this same storm. If we can band together as a community, we can all find connection and support and help each other and our children.

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