Everyone has their own battles to fight but when it is a child fighting, the results are often more profound. When families experience homelessness, the dramatic lifestyle changes that children go through can be a catalyst for both good and bad. Problems with addiction, education, and motivation can often stem from early childhood struggles. Helping kids respond and bounce back from potentially destructive events is something to support and foster, ideally as early as possible.
Resilience is one’s ability to rebound from stress, failure, adversity, challenges, or even trauma. And, there is good news – it is not something that kids either have or don’t have, it is a skill that can be developed as they grow, even into adulthood. Teaching kids to be resilient allows them to reach for goals and not be afraid of falling short. By mitigating the struggles of experiencing homelessness, children can learn to take healthy, smart risks to advance their lives.
Anxiety and depression are more prevalent in children today due to everything seen in the news from politics and climate change to a global pandemic, local community struggles and more. Information overload can often be the source of mental and behavioral health stress, and should be cared for with a new awareness and new tactics.¹
What can help? Getting outside and moving can always help take the mind off of discomfort. Some may not take as kindly to physical exertion, but moderate activity in greenspaces is healthy for a developing mind. If you are in a child’s life who is experiencing homelessness, be that committed relationship in their lives. That connection will provide support and stability for them to lean on and grow from. In the debate between nature and nurture, if the nature side has fallen short, the nurture side can pick up the slack and help ensure healthy development.²
Johnathan was roughly 9 years old when he went through the Family Promise program, but is now 16 years old. He reflected, “I cannot remember her name but she was the woman that sat up front at the old Day Center in Lemoyne. She and I would talk about everything a 9-year-old could talk about, and she always had a smile on her face when we came in. My experience with Family Promise is that you should never take anything for granted and that you should always work hard for what you want.”
Kids need to learn problem solving, and if the home they are a part of cannot provide this, it is good to seek outside help to keep growing and learning how to adapt in an uncomfortable and imperfect environment. It is not only the kids learning how to be resilient, but the adults as well, and being a good example to the younger ones helps teach resilience. It is often said that ‘knowledge is power’, and to that end, FPHCR has several programs designed to help children improve resiliency and avoid making early mistakes that could create difficulty in adulthood. These classes range from budgeting and job searching to social networking and skill workshops.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
- Victor Frankl
Resiliency is a skill that can often be neglected, but as individuals go through tough times whether they know it or not, that skill is being tested and refined – and determines how well they bounce back. Being aware of ways to build those skills and improve the stress response is a good place to start, along with reaching out for assistance and helpful resources. FPHCR can lend a knowledgeable hand during your unique struggles, and is committed to getting you moving in a positive direction. While we cannot often control what happens to us, our power is in knowing that we can build the skills that help us bounce back quicker and stronger during the toughest of times.
¹ Psycom.net; Resilience in Children – Strategies to Strengthen Your Kids
² Harvard University Center on the Developing Child; Key Concepts on Resilience
If you or someone you know are in need of shelter, contact Family Promise of the Harrisburg Capital Region. Please call (717) 737-1100 or start the application process online here.
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