Building Resilience

Last month the NFPN News Notes Blog featured the remarkable story of Terry Morris and how his resilience took him from a horribly abusive childhood to becoming a rocket engineer at NASA.  This month we look at how to build resilience.

On the Harvard Business Review blog, John McKinley writes that when it comes to identifying leaders who can effect lasting social change, what matters most is resilience. According to McKinley, the three key characteristics of resilient leaders are:

  1. Grit: Short-term focus on tasks at hand, a willingness to slog through broken systems with limited resources, and pragmatic problem-solving skills.
  2. Courage: Action in the face of fear and embracing the unknown.
  3. Commitment: Long-term optimism and focus on big-picture goals.

To view the entire article, visit:

John McKinley says that “resilience can be trained.”  How might we go about training for resilience in our lives?

The American Psychological Association lists 10 ways to build resilience and here are four of them:

  • Make connections. Good relationships with close family members, friends or others are important. Accepting help and support from those who care about you and will listen to you strengthens resilience.
  • Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. You can’t change the fact that highly stressful events happen, but you can change how you interpret and respond to these events.
  • Accept that change is a part of living. Accepting circumstances that cannot be changed can help you focus on circumstances that you can alter.
  • Move toward your goals. Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”

To view the entire list, visit:

With resilience in our own lives, we are then in a position to help others build resilience. Kelly Wilson, a clinician with expertise in trauma treatment, says that to foster resilience in children, the primary factor is having caring and supporting relationships. There must be an environment of love, trust, and acceptance, and role models who offer encouragement and assistance.

Factors that foster resilience in trauma-exposed children include:

  • Able to ask adults for help
  • Stable, nurturing parent or caretaker and extended family
  • Supportive, positive school experiences
  • Consistent family environment (structured routine, family traditions, etc.)
  • Strong cultural connections and cultural identity

To view Kelly’s PowerPoint (with excellent illustrations) on building resiliency so that children can thrive, visit

One measure of resiliency is the positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a traumatic event.  The Post-traumatic Growth Research Group lists five factors of posttraumatic growth:

  • Relating to others
  • New possibilities
  • Personal strength
  • Spiritual change
  • Appreciation for life

A Posttraumatic Growth Inventory reflects these changes and is available here:

Finally, check out the Preserving Families Blog that provides information on ground-breaking legislation for prevention services:

Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

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