The New Oxford American Dictionary defines resilience as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness and the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.”

Resilience and resiliency have become major buzzwords in mental health communities, especially those dealing with children.  I have taken objection to this definition as I feel that it can be incredibly difficult for children who are relentlessly and severely traumatized to simply “recover quickly” and “spring back into shape” after being a victim of bullying.  I meet children who have literally been through hell enduring bullying of all kinds – physical, verbal, relational and cyber.  Asking a child to become resilient feels like blaming the victim and to come back to their original state seems near impossible.

In 2003, authors Henderson and Milstein expanded the definition of resilience as “the capacity to spring back, rebound, successfully adapt in the face of adversity, and develop social and academic competence despite exposure to severe stress…or the stress of today’s world.”  This feels a bit more achievable and encompassing.

Healing, recovery and resiliency are the goals for children we aid in the BRRC Peer Recovery Groups. Our groups enable children to learn from each other, honor their peers, learn skills to help with their recovery, work on service projects, and more than anything to have fun. The ultimate goal is to assist and watch bullied victims heal, recover and move on to a role of an upstander.  The Oxford definition of upstander states, “a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied.”  The world needs more upstanders.

I had the opportunity to attend a workshop titled Bullying/Cyberbullying and Resilience.  The presenter, Dr. Ryan Broll, PhD researched this topic extensively by interviewing persons who had experienced bullying in their past.  One fourth of the interviewees experienced long-term consequences from their bullying experiences whereas three-quarters felt like they had experienced some resiliency and recovery from the bullying in their past.

Dr Broll’s research revealed three key findings about resiliency with these young adults.

  • Quality of friendships.  Notice it is quality and not quantity of friendships.  Even one close, intimate, and special friend is capable of aiding a bullying victim on the way to recovery.
  • Parents who listen and support.  Dr Broll expressed that parents who asked open-ended questions of their children, who took the time to listen and ask their children how they feel can and do make a profound impact on the recovery of their children.
  • A teacher who genuinely cares can be life changing.  The teacher who engages and takes a genuine interest in their students can be paramount in helping a child recover and learn to trust others again.

My personal belief is that after experiencing trauma, resiliency and returning to a former state of being is darn near impossible.  The good news is that with a few key people engaged in a victim’s life, recovery is achievable.  A bullied child who has adults and peers who engage and care with them has a much higher probability of moving beyond their experience.  At times, these young people can move beyond their former selves into a state of advocating and helping others.

Will you join me in speaking up and becoming an upstander? Each month we will share stories and strategies that will support you in helping us build a community – no a WORLD – of upstanders. Together we will make being an upstander and intervening the norm.

Thank you for being a part of the solution!