Bouncing Back From Hard Times

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Photo by Olly Bennett

Resiliency is defined as our ability to "bounce back" from adversity. In my work in nonprofit mental health, I have been amazed to see how people are able to overcome intense trauma. It didn't take me long to realize that there has to be something psychological that help people over come difficulty. According to Nan Henderson, a renowned resiliency expert, we are "hard wired" to be resilient.

Parents and educators can build a child's resilience by reminding them that they are hard wired for bouncing back and in fact we can specifically point out for them how this happens. Whether it be about suffering an emotional blow from a friend or a big family change, children can learn to identify their individual personality traits which allow them to work through hard times and come out the other side stronger. As they grow they will learn to rely on these "protective factors" to help them cope.


According to Nan Henderson PERSONAL RESILIENCY BUILDERS or individual protective factors that facilitate resiliency are:

  1. Relationships -- Sociability/ability to be a friend/ability to form positive relationships


  2. Service -- Gives of self in service to others or a cause


  3. Life Skills -- Uses life skills, including good decision-making, assertiveness, and impulse control


  4. Humor -- Has a good sense of humor


  5. Inner Direction -- Bases choices/decisions on internal evaluation (internal locus of control)


  6. Perceptiveness -- Insightful understanding of people and situations


  7. Independence -- "Adaptive" distancing from unhealthy people and situations/autonomy


  8. Positive View of Personal Future -- Expects a positive future (Optimism)


  9. Flexibility -- Can adjust to change; can bend as necessary to positively cope with situations


  10. Love of Learning -- Capacity for & connection to learning


  11. Self-motivation -- Internal initiative, inner motivation


  12. Competence -- Is "good at something"/personal competence


  13. Self-Worth -- Feelings of self-worth and self-confidence


  14. Spirituality -- Personal faith in something greater


  15. Perseverance -- Keeps on despite difficulty; doesn't give up


  16. Creativity -- Expresses self through artistic endeavor


Adapted from the book, Resiliency in Schools: Making It Happen for Students and Educators by Nan Henderson and Mike Milstein, published by Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA (2003, revised ed.).