By Robert L. Mues   |   April 29th, 2008

Resiliency is a topic that I find myself discussing often with my divorce clients. I recently came across an interesting article on that subject which prompted this post. Resilience can de defined as the human ability to deal with, learn from, overcome and even be changed by the unfortunate but unavoidable adversities that life throws our way. Dr. Edith Grotberg, a developmental psychologist, has done extensive worldwide research on the subject of fostering resiliency. In a recent interview in the Palo Alto Daily News, Heath Matters: Resilience Can Be Improved Upon, by columnist L.J. Anderson, Dr. Grotberg stated that people are born with the capacity to be resilient, but the challenge should be to continually work to increase ones ability to be resilient so that when adversities present themselves, an individual is able to handle the situation.  She believes that the capacity for resilience can be strengthened in both adults and children.  She challenges parents and other resilient adults who work with children to help foster children’s resiliency.

Dr. Grotberg became interested in the study of resilience while teaching at the University for Women in Sudan, Africa. She was tired of having poor and less fortunate people being labeled with negative attributes. She was inspired by reading a book written by Emmy Werner who studied children on one of the poorest islands in Hawaii. Werner recognized that the children on this island were being sustained and that they were living a happy life in spite of all the negatives they faced, such as poverty and sickness. Dr. Grotberg recognized the need to study the resiliency factor, and she went on to develop the International Resilience Project gathering data from 27 different sites in 22 countries.

Dr. Grotberg has found through her research that resilience can be divided into three categories. The characteristics that she found are inherent in resilience are, I HAVE, I AM, and I CAN. In the interview, Dr. Grotberg explained these three categories.

I HAVE (external supports): one or more persons within my family I can trust and who love me without reservation; one or more persons outside my family I can trust without reservation; limits to my behavior; people who encourage me to be independent; good role models; access to health, education, and the social and security services I need; and a stable family and community.

I AM (inner strengths): a person most people like; generally calm and good natured; an achiever who plans for the future; a person who respects myself and others; empathic and caring of others; responsible for my behavior and accepting of the consequences, and a confident, optimistic, hopeful person with faith.

I CAN (interpersonal and problem solving skills): generate new ideas or new ways to do things; stay with a task until it is finished; see the humor in life and use it to reduce tensions; express thoughts and feelings in communication with others; solve problems in various setting-academic, job related, personal and social; manage my behavior-feelings, impulses, acting out; and reach out for help when I need it.”

In the interview, Dr. Grotberg stated, “These factors are used in dynamic resilience with each other, changing as needed to address the adversity. These are clearly for adults as well as children.” When asked what happens to people who are not resilient, Dr. Grotberg replied that people have the capacity to be resilient but those who are not, have simply not had anyone to help them promote it. People who lack resiliency are more likely to be a victim of adversity, as they do not have the skills to deal with problems. If a child is not becoming resilient, it is critical that parents and teachers help the child to develop resiliency. Adults must ask themselves what they are doing to help the child to identify his or her supports. They must help the child to build inner strengths and to see that problem-solving and social skills are being taught to the child.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.

Improving Resiliency
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