Session 6


conditions that lead to wellness, resilience and growth

Restoring: A relational approach

Resilience is the capacity to adapt. Humans are incredibly resilient, for the simple reason that we have many things to adapt to early in and throughout our life span. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, losses and disappointments, changes and disruptions. To be adaptive is to learn, change and grow in response to life and the inevitable challenges that we must face along the way. It means that we can continue to rise up after getting knocked down and are able to go on to live a fulfilling life regardless of what we have endured.

Ashley's Story

As you go thru the course, hear the firsthand perspective of Ashley, a former youth in care. 

Youth in care have often faced more challenges early in life than others will ever face or experience. Each time a youth faces a problem or an impossible situation, their brain must help them navigate the situation. If the necessary conditions are present, they will continue to grow and mature in the face of difficulty. However, many youth in care have not been provided with the conditions they need to be able to adapt to the circumstances in their lives. Instead, they become stuck, which can lead to some pretty overwhelming anxiety symptoms—such as chronic worry, fears, phobias, compulsions, obsessions and other challenging behaviours. Anxiety-driven behaviour can become so perplexing that it can feel as if you, as a caregiver or care provider, cannot see the forest for the trees. 

“Research on resilience over the last 35 years has consistently demonstrated the link between children’s emotional health and social success with strong care relationships with adults. Even when a child is faced with bullying, poverty, addiction, or mental illness in the home, the presence of substitute adults such as grandparents or adults found in schools or community is the single most protective factor for emotional well-being.”

—Dr. Gordon Neufeld, Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers

Anxiety symptoms can be a sign that a youth is stuck and that their adaptive capacity is on hold so that their system can divert energy to survival. This can happen as a result of:

Youth in care have likely experienced some or all of these stressors. For Indigenous youth in care, who have also been impacted by colonization and the effects of residential schools and intergenerational trauma, these stressors can be significantly greater.

In a recent report on resilience in Indigenous youth in Canada and the United States, youth talked about the role that intergenerational connections with grandparents played in their sense of well-being, explaining that simple things like eating together, having a good laugh, and experiencing the qualities of openness, acceptance, humour and shared attention in the relationship were particularly meaningful. Youth also spoke of the importance of land and connection with places and bodies of water, and how being on the land keeps them connected with their families and kin.

As a caregiver or care provider, you are in the best position to help restore the conditions for resilience and growth through your relationship with the youth in your care, addressing anxiety symptoms as a result. Restoring what has been compromised or put on hold because the youth has been in survival mode will have a significant impact on their health and well-being.

'It's your path but you don't have to walk it alone.'

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