Module Four: Resilience and Healing

OVC Essentials Fall 2021 Module Four: Resilience and Healing

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    • #76591
      Leah St. Pierre
      CAFO Staff

      How does a greater understanding of resilience and neuroplasticity affect how you view a caregiver’s role and responsibility with a child impacted by abuse, neglect, and/or trauma? Comment on any actual shifts or changes you may consider making in the ways you interact, discipline, or lead these children based on this week’s content (or that you may train others to implement in volunteer or program positions).

    • #76641
      Sarah Alfieri

      I loved this week’s lesson, as these concepts and practices were a key part of my last job at the children’s advocacy center where I lead trainings! Without knowing of or understanding the concept of neuroplasticity and resilience, everything seems hopeless. But when you realize that there is hope and healing  and that both are attainable- everything changes! I think this is especially impactful for caregivers to realize, as it can help them reframe how they are interacting, disciplining, loving, and leading a child who has experienced trauma.

      These concepts allow a caregiver to 1. Realize that they can make a lasting, positive impact on the child 2. Find healthy and healing habits to integrate into their relationships 3. Teach the children they interact with coping skills and healthy outlets so that they can learn how to self-regulate and evaluate.

      In my own life I interact with children frequently, and these concepts have greatly impacted how I interact and lead children over the last few years. I take more time to truly listen to what they are saying (both verbally and nonverbally). Does a kid flinch if a door closes too hard? In a group activity does one kid hide in the corner? What happens if I try to correct a child?

      By noticing true reactions, it helps me understand the needs (and perhaps get an idea of past wounds), and then refocus my love and guidance to those specific needs. For example, if a child flinches when touched or if a door slams, I can realize that they are fearful and feel unsafe. I would then refocus my interactions with them on creating habits that make them feel safe- maybe I let them move seats across the room from the door where they can see it? When we take the time to see a real need, and change our habits to make healthy changes for the child, we are helping to slowly heal their brains!

      I hope all of that makes sense- I just really love this topic and find it so fascinating and hopeful! I’m grateful we have a God who also heals our hearts and hurts, and gives us eternal hope!

    • #76668
      Tiffany Edison

      This lesson was such a good review and reminder!  A major home-running quote for me was from the booklet created by Nicole, Meredith, and Alisha:

      “Some experts suggest the effects of toxic stress may even affect genetics, and be passed onto future generations.” (Roth, T.L., Lubin, F.D., Funk, A.J., & Sweatt, J.D. [2009]. Lasting epigenetic influence of early-life adversity on the BDNF gene.  Biological Psychiatry, 65[9], 760-769.

      For me, this only reinforces this mentality of the generational, cyclical-nature of trauma, abuse, and other negative factors.  We’ve heard the term “cycle-breakers” multiple times before, maybe even witnessed a few people in our own lives who have themselves been “cycle-breakers” (my father breaking the cycle of alcoholism in his family; my sister–who came into my life when she was 17–breaking the cycle of abuse from her biological family…).  I see this in our nation as a whole, with everything going on right now.  I see a generation of people who are reaping the negative harvest of toxic stress.

      I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  As many people are aware, we just remembered our 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre in our city.  I can clearly see in our city how the effects such a traumatic, horrific, toxic stress event has affected generations of people.  Communities of people have never fully recovered.  Toxic stress is ABUNDANT in our city.

      • #76675
        Meredith Smylie

        Tiffany, I love the way that you have considered this so carefully, and looked to see its impact in your own family as well as your community! It is so important to recognize and acknowledge the role of trauma and toxic stress. I also found that research quote you highlighted very interesting! My biologist brain loves to learn more about how the brain works, and while I think the generation impact of toxic stress is daunting in a way, I believe that as we continue to learn more, we will be better equipped to help those who are impacted!

      • #76680
        Christy Wiesner

        Tiffany, I appreciate your point that trauma and toxic stress do not just occur at the individual level. They can happen within whole communities, cities, or countries in a way that impacts entire people groups or generations. In these cases, it is so important to do healing as a community in addition to healing in the individually impacted lives. It is so important for us to be aware of where toxic stress and trauma are at work in our communities so we can help be a voice of fostering healing, hope, and resilience.

    • #76676
      Meredith Smylie

      As Leah pointed out in our discussion today, I love that this week immediately followed the week on trauma. My biggest takeaway from this week’s content and Zoom is that resilience can be fostered. Just like any skill, it requires determination, and even coaching, as our littles build these skills, and I feel like this week’s material is so great for equipping us to be able to help them with this. Trauma doesn’t render them hopeless and there are paths forward!


      I love too that resilience is so rooted in connection and relationship to others. The Lord truly did design us so intentionally for relationship and science only continues to confirm this more and more!

      • #76677
        Sarah Alfieri

        Hey Meredith- thank you for sharing! It was so encouraging to hear about how resilience really can be fostered and grown in a child (or adult)- that gives so much hope in a field where hope isn’t normally readily available.

        I loved how during our call we discussed how a child’s trauma isn’t a death sentence- there is hope and healing waiting for them… sometimes it just takes someone to love them and help walk them through it!


        I really liked how you mentioned Christ’s design for us to live in relationship- this lesson really did highlight how powerful deep and meaningful connection is!

      • #76682
        Dorathy Lachman


        I love your point about trauma not rendering anyone hopeless!  Just like any skill, there needs to be a safe place to learn it.  There will be ups and downs and re-do’s, but it’s all part of the learning process.

        Giving grace to learn in the context of a relationship is one of the most empowering things we can do.  God’s design is so truly wonderful – He models it for us and then offers us the opportunity to “go and do likewise.”

    • #76679
      Christy Wiesner

      Like several people have already mentioned, I am grateful for the hope that this lesson offers. It is so easy to get bogged down in the pain, trauma, abuse, neglect, and compounding negative effects that people experience; when we are overwhelmed by this it makes us feel hopeless and immobilized. In the first videos and readings on resilience, they said “Individuals never completely lose their ability to improve their coping skills and they often learn how to adapt to new challenges”. I think this is encouraging because this means that there is not only hope for children, but for teens and adults as well! What an incredible gift that God has given us through resilience. And what precious knowledge to know that whatever stage of life we meet vulnerable and traumatized people, we can be a person of trust, care, and encouragement.

      Specifically thinking about children, I think it is very important in the process of building resilience to first take the time to learn where a child is coming from. “The Connected Child” book talked about how understanding where a child came from and what motives developed their behaviors can help care-givers understand where healing needs to take place and in what areas resilience needs focused development. When care-givers can dive deeper into a child’s past, the more they can view the child through eyes of grace, compassion, and patience. Understanding the cause enables us to treat not just the symptoms, but the root of the behaviors. In my field of work as a teacher, especially working overseas, it can be hard to receive information about the families and environments my students are living in. But by studying culture and asking what questions I can, this information can guide my teaching, my classroom structure, and the types of classroom correction used to redirect students. I can also carefully watch and monitor student behavior to help me determine specific areas for each individual that can be focused on in their healing and development.

    • #76681
      Dorathy Lachman

      I think my biggest takeaway comes partly from our discussion on Zoom and partly from a quote from the Created to Heal booklet.

      From the booklet, “Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate.  Moment by moment, every day you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking.  When we hope, it is an activity of the mindset that changes the structure of our brain in a positive and normal direction.”

      And from the discussion, “Behavior change happens in relationship, which is neither efficient nor fast.  But the dividends are so worth it.”

      These were the elements that spoke hope to me, as many others have mentioned.  While it does take work to heal, healing is possible.  It again makes me marvel at the simple and yet profound nature of what it is that causes change – words (thoughts) and people.

      I think my challenge from this material has been to evaluate my words/thoughts and relationships.  Am I truly using my thoughts in the form of words to speak life to others and am I being a source of hope though my relationships?  As a follower of Christ, I should strive daily to do both.

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