Resilience in Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

 by Sarah Cain, LCSW

Children are resilient even when coping with a traumatic event such as abuse, neglect, a natural disaster, or community violence.  Resilience is about facing adversity and coming out the other end.  Having a support system (family, community, and religious groups), humor, and health are important factors. A child needs to know that he or she matters to someone regardless of what they have gone through. That can include supporting children while they are in counseling. Resilience enables healing and allows for growth and change.  It is more than just surviving. Play and self expression through the arts promote resiliency in children as these are their natural ways of processing and communicating. 

Observations of resilience in children:

  • Openness to new experiences
  • Interdependence with others
  • Having a goal/plan for the future
  • Appropriate eye contact
Photo by Imgorthand/iStock / Getty Images

Resilient adolescents can talk openly about their feelings with peers and/or a trusted adult. They may also exhibit persistence and optimism for the future.

Consistency and self care are important for those caring with children who have experienced trauma. Even though a child may be physically away from a traumatic event, they may not feel psychologically safe. Learning what helps a child to feel safe and promoting safety regardless of environment is essential while children are healing. If you are concerned regarding your child’s coping after a traumatic event or if your child has experienced complex traumatic events, please consider bringing your child in for assessment and trauma-informed care. We can offer psychoeducation for parents who may want to know more on this topic.

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Webb, N.B. (Eds.). (1991). Play therapy with children in crisis: A casebook for practitioners. New York: Guilford Press.
Walsh, F. (1998). Strengthening family resilience. New York: Guilford Press.