Role Modeling Resiliency: How Are Kids’ Coping Skills?

nurturing.jpgUpdate April 15, 2013 Don’t miss this worthwhile post by Lori Day on 10 Ways to Raise Resilient Kids in Turbulent Times on HuffPo; excellent piece with tips galore; especially fitting for tragic headline news days such as today. Also adding this to my post about natural disasters awhile back: Quaking Kids + Headline News: How Much is Too Much to remind parents of young kids to keep a keen eye toward media management to HELP kids cope. (e.g. going screen free to keep the mental relay out of replay mode works wonders)

Original Post: 2008 “We regret to inform you,” no one wants to hear that opener…

Tonight I came back from a celebratory dinner with fellow presenters at the CCFC summit hosted by über role model and CCFC Co-Founder Susan Linn, graciously in her own home. Spirits were high with renewed energy and vibrant inspiration of ‘can do’ people, fresh, young faces from a collegiate and doctoral demographic, and eager agents of change.

I bounced into my hotel room with a spring in my step, thankful to have been among these rock star researchers and ‘troublemakers’ (as Dr. Diane Levin called us all) ready to find ways to reverse the damage of sexploitation, pornification, and commodification of childhood.

I plopped on my hotel room bed with happy exhaustion and grabbed by laptop to check e-mail, and there it was…”We regret to inform you”…

echoing-green.jpgAh, the Echoing Green finalist fellowship cut: “We were truly inspired by your passion and creative ideas for social change and your application was in the top quarter of all those we reviewed… Indeed, we received nearly 1,500 submissions — and yet, as a nonprofit that raises all of the money we give away, we only have the capacity to fund 20.” Crum.

Looks like my bro, and my dear pal Debbie Kaddu-Serwadda from ECCA in Uganda and the Envirolution guys didn’t make the Echoing Green cut either, but as I wrote about in the semifinalist post, it was an honor to make it this far among such global greatness.

Still. I felt that distinctive lump-in-the-throat rejection sadness that leaves a hollow, emptiness inside, immediately questioning what I did ‘wrong,’ like a breakup or a failing grade, and was horrified at that wave of ‘old me’ emotional self-blame, catching it in mid-thought.

Then I jumped to bracer mode: “at least it wasn’t a ‘regret to inform you’ of a loved one, soldier’s death, house foreclosure, rent eviction, medical coverage denial, or some other biggie…

I found myself trying to ‘stuff’ the feeling or shake it off with willful determination that it’s just a little pinprick in the bubble of life. Again, a coping skill that’s served me all too well over time. Man, those old habits die hard…

wlw07-group-compressed.jpgFinally, I took a deep breath and just let myself ‘feel it’ and ‘get centered’ blinking back to our global leadership sessions at the Women Leaders for the World summit where we were coached in the practice of somatics, learning the ‘two-step’ of alternative pathways when any roadblocks pop up. (that’s me in the pink at left, and Debbie’s right behind me)

To quote David Carradine, “There’s an alternative. There’s always a third way, and it’s not a combination of the other two ways. It’s a different way.”

Contemplation always brings me to a deeper level of essence, with new questions springing forth about youth development…

How do we best help kids cope with and express feelings amidst cultural narcissism of the ‘me millenium’ with meltdowns, immediate gratification, reward systems, ‘everybody wins’ thinking and consumerist fallout.

tough-times.jpgDespite fabulous books on resiliency and a plethora of parenting and child health resources on coping skills out there, I still wonder:

Do kids today have sufficient resiliency and coping skills?

Do you? Whether it’s elimination in a school play lead, sports try-out cuts, boyfriend break-ups, cyberbullying or any of those conundrums that feel like the world is falling apart in childhood, it’s essential that kids can put setbacks into context (new documentary dvd here).

With media’s ‘fix’ as an opiate of the masses, which children often use to either wind down (TV) or jack up (gaming reward systems and virtual world entertainment) it makes me wonder in the larger scheme of things, are we as a society nurturing resilience enough?

Are we preparing kids for the setbacks and ‘hard knock life’ they’ll no doubt be exposed to down the line in some manner?

What can we do to role model resiliency better amdist universal life stresses?

mtvu-logo.jpgAccording to the mtvU/Associated Press survey I cited in my presentation yesterday, of 2,253 college students (aged 18-24) polled last month, 16% of collegiate ‘friends’ talked about wanting to end their life in the past year, 11% of their friends actually tried to, and 9% of the respondents themselves had “thought seriously about it.”

Yowza. Those numbers seem disturbingly high.

Why are some capable of springing back with coping skills and survival instincts, whereas others wither and fade in a pity party?

Are we raising today’s children to be inoculated from the disappointments that they need to grow and thrive as resilient adults?

Makes me wonder about media intake of drama/reality show reverb, (e.g. High School Confidential docudrama) positioned as teen normalcy, much like the Girls Rock movie prompted many of our tweens polled to say, “great film, but I wish they showed some ‘normal girls’ in the mix so I could relate more.”

What constitutes normative behavior, and healthy coping skills?

Seems there’s a definite need for outreach, healing, human contact and intervention with some of the media messaging landing on kids today.

Even in the digital space, peer to peer social media forums can turn into high-stakes life-saving threads alerting the need for an S.O.S. Conversely, digital natives can contribute to being the causal link in cases of cyberbullying, ‘Juicy Campus’ gossip run amok, and public slams and wounds to the psyche that are now open to all on the worldwide web, requiring ‘reputation management.’ (a coping skill challenge in itself!)

mashup08_125-125.gifGen. Y expert Anastasia Goodstein of YPulse (who happens to also mention the ZookaZoo/Dizzywood eco-virtual world elements we just discussed here) is dreaming up the notion of some form of digital ‘coping skills’ widget to link kids to youth development pros and facilitate online intervention to enhance resilience in troubled times…I’m dying to hear more on this idea when I interview her for the upcoming YPulse summer mashup in July. (meanwhile if you don’t want my full mtvU study link above, she has a brief synopsis of the AP poll here).

I guess in one sense, kids have more to cope with via surround sound behavioral cues and media as a hyper-peer pressure conduit, but on the other hand, as my dear humanist pal and advisory guru Alice Aspen March of the Attention Factor surmises, “this all really boils down to humans needing attention and connection in meaningful ways…If they get the right KIND of attention in childhood, it’s interdependent with how they handle adversity later.”

Alice has been studying social intervention and attention deficits for years, citing Britney and others in this article titled, “Attention-Getting Celebrities: Why and what is this all about?”

She tracks the entire child star fame and fortune spiral connecting the dots to attentive familial focus in those childhood formative years, and has written some provocative posts about the acceleration of our society’s preoccupied, fast-paced, half-alert, partial attention deficit.

attention-bookcover.jpgWaking up to ‘the attention factor’ appears to be an applicable solution to multiple societal woes, from kids’ acting out to classroom problems, depression, substance abuse, stress, divorce, you name it. She argues that ‘acting out’ often comes from the wrong ‘kind’ of attention (or no attention at all, feeling lonely and invisible) and warning signs are often prevalent and preventable if we were all just…um…paying attention!

“Heath Ledger didn’t have to die,” she proclaims in her article about the warning signs of his emotional and physical distress, “we just weren’t paying attention to all the red flags he was sending.”

She notes his public discussions of his stress, insomnia, cold he couldn’t shake, etc. and even though he appeared to be coping with resilience, his actions were a cry for help, right down to his scheduled massage to relax, and sleep aids.

She says the KIND of attention and connectivity we need to thrive as human beings is not what’s being offered out there in the shallow, busy, consumerist, ‘image-based’ pursuit of happiness…It obfuscates the deep need for safety and the longing to be genuinely loved and accepted for who we are.

I’ll review Alice’s workbook fully in another post, but I just thought I’d toss this out here tonight since I’m ‘paying attention’ to my own reactions and resilience, acutely aware of the volatile emotional pendulum swings derived from this CCFC summit itself.

ccfc-logo.jpgThis entire CCFC summit has been an intense experience of emotional highs and lows, with a serious need for media ‘attention’ to some problematic damage landing on kids.

From deeply disturbing research and evidence on the mental and physical state of children due to hyper-sexualization, consumption cues, and global toxicity, to bright hopes and incredible work being done in national children’s health circles by both attendees and presenters, I swing from overwhelm to tenacious vigor in full passionista mode.

The growth and expansion of CCFC’s wild cross-section of consortium members (including people like me, from the ‘Darth Vader dark side’ of media/marketing!) signals the strong need for media “attention” on this topic of children far beyond child advocacy and the parenting arena.

We need to enroll kids themselves, and we saw this even through the youthful new generation of pros ready to embrace the positive, ditch the negative, and help kids be kids by proving the harm.

It’s like the next generation of cavalry coming to set things right, often with whip-smart doctoral candidates and professors that look like kids themselves, and know how to embrace the digital space without abusing it…

People like Sara Grimes of Simon Fraser University and the Gamine Expedition blog who we’ll be hearing from a lot more as she joins Shaping Youth as a regular correspondent in game analysis and virtual worlds…And young parents like child/adolescent psychologist Dr. Richard Freed, who I think I may invite onto our regional advisory board, since he’s right here in the Bay area. (took flying to Boston to reconnect again!)

With research experience like this coming aboard to help the public take back the internet from the data miners and profiteers out to sell kids’ souls for a buck and explain to everyone the huge cognitive difference between adults and early child development, I’d say this was the first CCFC gig where hope and promise trumped frustration.

As I draw my soothing hot bath to unwind and ‘let go’ of this minor setback of the Echoing Green fellowship, I wonder if my daughter has the resilience and acumen to view the world with hope and promise too…

Have we given her ‘the right kind’ of attention to self-calm and bounce-back, fully nourished and even stronger? Is resiliency hard-wired in her the way it was in me as I moved around the world?

Is she rational enough to put things in perspective and be appreciative and thankful for all she has to offer? Can she sift through the messages pummeling her adolescence that define kids by how they look and what they have rather than who they are?

What do you think? Are kids more, or less resilient than you were as a child? Are they being toughened by the media combat or wounded and scarred on a deeper level? (regardless of your age, you can play along, I’d love to hear from all generations!)

p.s. Mom, Dad: Sincere thanks for raising me with more flexibility than a Gumby doll. (how’s that for a retro reference? It would probably have an LCD and computer chip in it by now, heehe) Independence and resilience was inbred deeply in my personality and all aspects of my childhood, and it continues to serve me quite well.

Cocoon parents and helicopter hovering types beware…

Kids need to falter, get up on their own, and resolve the inter-connectedness of their internal landscape and external choices…A healthier worldview for kids is on the horizon, and we need buy-in from kids themselves to make it sustainably ‘stick.’

Related Resources

Raising Resilient Children Foundation

The Attention Factor Website, Alice Aspen March

Nurturing Resilience in our Children (by Dr. Robert Brooks & Dr. Sam Goldstein, who also wrote Power of Resilience, which I liked a lot)

From the same authors: Parent Resiliency Quiz

Tough Times/Resilient Kids, Documentary on DVD, Brooks & Goldstein

Dr. Myrna Shure’s website/book series: Raising a Thinking Preteen (Child, etc.)



  1. Great post, Amy. 🙂

  2. I love the questions you pose here in the post. So many parents need to read this, it’s a very important issue, especially in todays world.

    Great post!

  3. Hi Amy-

    I’ve been thinking about these issues too recently– and I truly believe that one of the areas where role models can do better is in admitting mistakes. Resiliency is tied in with this skill because once we admit mistakes, we can move forward to fixing them or addressing them. Children so often look at their parents and mentors as superheroes who don’t do anything wrong– no wonder some have trouble being resilient when things go wrong in their own lives. And on our quest to be perfect, it can be challenging to settle for anything less.

    I talked about some of these things in an article that might interest you and your readers–

    Thanks for the great post.

    Dr. Robyn

  4. Hi Robyn, I love that post of yours, one of my faves!

    Along those lines, one of our regional advisers, Nurse Rona Renner (talk show radio host at Childhood was just on our local abc affiliate noting the “5Ps” of “what a child needs” —(and it ain’t more ‘stuff’ from the store!) 😉 Her tips align VERY closely w/yours, in ‘sound-bite’ form compressed for TV…

    She distilled it into this little data nugget:

    Play time
    Patience and practice
    Positive attention
    Peaceful home (respect vs. yelling)
    Parents who are happy (fueling yourself)

    For resilience role modeling…I’d still add ‘persistence and passion’ in some manner, because my biggest concern in today’s immediate gratification society is that no one will ‘persist for the payoff’ they get ‘givupitis’ far too soon and defeatist if things don’t go their way FAST. (from sports and school to life ventures)

    I can’t tell you how many people have said, “Amy, you STILL don’t have your site up/funding/etc. why don’t you just give up & work for so & so?” — and it amazes me! I’m very purposely taking things slow to find the right ‘fit’ with alignments rather than jumping into offers to ‘take the money and run’ or partner with someone that’s not the right chemistry long term…

    My own daughter just doesn’t ‘get it’ how I can work soooooooooooooooooooo hard “and not get paid a gazillion dollars!” (like the role models in the media, I’m sure)

    She’ll say things like, “Mom, you’re IN the media, why don’t you just USE your contacts, and go on the air and do interviews and get sponsors!!!”

    And though she has grounded logic in this, staying low-key and under the radar in ‘pre-launch’ mode sans media attention is my preference as we filter, and plan, very strategically what our ‘next steps’ will be and with whom.

    These lessons and life skills translate from biz to beaus…kids need to LEARN that inner happiness takes persistence, resilience, and tenacity…I guess I’m a ‘role model’ for slogging it out the hard way rather than hopscotching to some sort of faux media stardom. In the long run, this organic approach to how the org evolves will prove to be the more holistic fit; the important thing to convey in my mind is that mistakes WILL be made, and recovery from them may be daunting but is very doable.

    (Shades of the ‘Target’ fame and flame of media misinformation veering ‘off target’ away from the initial conversation; that brand erosion was a pain, but I learned sooooooo much on how to ‘take the high road’ even when folks try to suck you into the quicksand.)

    THAT to me is a lesson in resilience all kids need to learn…’Find the positive’ and persevere…with all those little aphorisms like: “The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.” ~Author Unknown

  5. Yes, I have to agree with you on perseverance (as I talk about it in my character curriculum)– or as you wrote, “persist for the payoff.” Any goal, whether it’s to become a better parent or to learn how to ride a bike, takes promise (a statement of commitment that you will indeed do it), practice, patience, perseverance (never giving up until you reach your goal), and positivity (that good things will happen as long as you keep trying).

    I did indeed like Childhood Matters host, Rona Renner’s interview on View from the Bay. She has a wonderful presence. I look forward to getting to know her (I hope to hear from her after you sent that email– it will be a pleasure). It’s always a treat to meet others who are on the same page when it comes to parenting, educating, and working with children.

    Talk to you soon-
    Dr. Robyn

  6. I’m delighted to have discovered the “shaping youth” site via a blog search for parent & school references for my own website, My first book, and now a sequel in process also focus on practical steps for helping our kids to cope with everyday stress — a follow-up to my free and open-access “virtual classroom” for promoting coping brain literacy and basic skills for pre-teens.

  7. Glad to hear it…I’ll check it out pronto as I LOVE finding brain literacy and media literacy in tandem! 🙂 Thanks for the links…

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Doodle 4 Google National Winner: Hope For A New Beginning

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