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Tapping into Family Resiliency

The world has changed dramatically over the course of 2020. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, which has caused concerns around our livelihoods and the state of the economy. We have new fears about access to PPE and life-saving medical equipment. How we interact with our friends, family, and larger communities has completely changed. As we move through new stresses, we are still living in a world in which we experience pain, sadness, and fear. The word trauma might bring up images of big events and significant personal loss, but trauma can be smaller life events as well. All the aforementioned stresses are examples of trauma. One of our best defenses against the negative effects of trauma is resiliency. In this post, I'd like to offer some ideas around how families can help each other navigate through these unprecedented times and help each other build resiliency.

What is resiliency?

Resiliency is the ability to adapt to change, stress, crisis, and trauma. Tough times often come with tough feelings, and adversity can bring pain. While many of these events are out of our control, we can control our reactions and responses to gain new insights, skills, and growth.

Why talk about resiliency in families?

When a traumatic event happens, entire families frequently feel the impact. Trauma and stress are not felt in isolation; healing also happens on a larger contextual level. The family and/or parental response can have a significant impact on growth and movement through the event. Family members can help each other through supportive conversations and building new skills.

Family resiliency comes from processing the grief, loss, and any other big feelings that come with trauma or crisis. Creating meaning from the crisis and weaving the crisis into the larger family story is one of many ways that families can experience this healing and growth.

What family resiliency is not:

Resiliency is not the absence of pain or difficulties. We will all experience adversity. Crisis or trauma is not something to “just get over.” Resiliency is not always about returning to former functioning but instead can be about growth and new skills. It is not a destination, but a process; not a trait, but an action. The good news is that it is something that individuals and families can build intentionally.