Mel Gibson is quoted as saying, “I’ve learned that a bitter experience can make you better.” No doubt you have proved this too. It CAN make you better but it requires having adequate support, coping mechanisms and resources.
A recent study reported on the critical role that mothers play in helping children thrive or flourish in adversity.* Adverse Childhood Experiences** (ACEs), situations like a family breakup, the death of a parent, living with someone who is depressed for more than a couple of weeks, living with someone who has an alcohol or drug problem, witnessing violence between adults in the home, being subject to violence and experiencing significant financial hardship, are known factors that impact both childhood and adult well being.
Preventing exposure to many of these circumstances, needs to be a priority and is the responsibility of all, but life happens and difficulties do come.
Fortunately, according to the research, it is possible to thrive despite adversity.
If the resources are equal to or outweigh the difficult experience, we are much more likely to come through ‘better’ rather than ‘bitter’.
The findings of the researchers? There are particular family and community strengths that have a protective effect. These are factors, that even when adversity is encountered, we can do something about; it’s about developing strengths and sharing them with others.
“The most influential of these protective factors were having access to patient-centered, coordinated medical care, mothers who were in excellent mental health and community support which was gauged by responses to statements such as, “I have adults I can trust, people to count on.” Additional protective factors included fathers in excellent mental health, mothers and fathers who had completed at least some college, living in a neighborhood with amenities such as sidewalks, a library, a park and a recreation center, and mothers in good physical health.”
Research done over the past several years has focused on the relationship between adverse experience in childhood and adult physical and mental health outcomes. This study focused on measuring the effect of certain factors that we can directly influence, namely mental and physical health of mothers and fathers. It encourages us to be proactive about making good mental and physical health choices for ourselves, knowing that as parents, caregivers and members of the community, we can make a difference for ourselves, our families and for future generations.
Dr. Sharif, the lead author, summarised by saying, “This shows there are things we can do…we can support children and families through the patient-centered medical home, linking parents to mental health services, and building community social supports to help children succeed.”
Developing self awareness, learning new techniques for communicating and managing emotions and focusing on fostering sustainable relationships are all essential components of a resourceful community. Resilient Families was created to fill a real need in the community for early intervention/prevention, supporting families by providing easy access to practical skills, education and strategies to build resilience with the potential for reducing anxiety, depression and stress related illnesses. Weekly articles encourage parents and caregivers to develop their own strengths and model resilience in the early years.
Doing what we can requires community education and collaboration.
If you have children attending an early years care facility, we’d love you to share this article with your centre and, if they aren’t already, encourage them to subscribe to Resilient Families.
Happiness and thriving isn’t the result of everything always going well. It’s the assurance that we have access to the support we need and learning through experience that we can manage.
*ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160430100352.htm>