Fort McCoy News January 10, 2014

Resiliency can help youth to overcome life's obstacles

Public Affairs Staff

Youth often face obstacles they struggle to overcome in life, but that doesn't mean they can't reach their potential, said Joshua Goede, Monroe County 4-H agent.

Goede was the guest speaker at the Dec. 12 Parent Advisory Council meeting at Fort McCoy. He defined resiliency as the ability to cope and adapt to change while overcoming difficulties, misfortunes or setbacks in life.

Youth face many risks and stressors, Goede said. Risks are any factor or combination of factors that increase the chance of an undesirable outcome. These may include poverty, low parental education or home make up. Stressors are short-term conditions that change over time, such as the birth of siblings, moving, divorce and the death of loved ones.

"Studies have shown that no one risk factor is enough to curtail a child's development," he said. "There is a cumulative effect of multiple bad experiences that increases the likelihood of negative outcomes. (The good news is that) the same cumulative effect applies to protective factors."

Youth who show the most resilience to overcome bad breaks have high intelligence and self-esteem, a sense of self-efficacy, an easygoing temperament, a sense a humor, a secure base and a highly developed degree of perseverance, he said.

Studies show that youth who experienced the effects of war, such as children who were in London during bombings in World War II, fared better, and were more resilient than some who were evacuated from London to safer areas, he said. Likewise, children who experienced the Holocaust could show marked individual differences in recovery as they transitioned to adulthood.

Parents can help build resilience in youth and control or mitigate many of the factors that affect healthy growth. Goede said parents with a high school or higher level of education or who have had positive experiences with education can use that success to help their children successfully navigate the educational system. These parents are involved with and promote the child's education, as well as being involved in their daily life. They have an open line of communication and an extended Family to support them. If an extended Family isn't available, they have Family friends who can step in and help expand a child's support system.

"Parents can help children build resiliency by maintaining open communication, maintaining the children's schedule and preparing them for the changes ahead," he said. "By being involved with a child's school, knowing their friends, helping a child see her strengths and mitigating their weaknesses, parents can help increase the chances for success."

Parents need to listen to children to ensure they are comfortable with where they are in life, he said.

The Parent Advisory Council meets every two months.

For more information, call Parent Central Services at 608-388-8956.