Children are Resilient

Children are Resilient is a Lie (Inner Child Therapy)

Children are resilient. How many times have you heard that phrase? Probably way too many to even consider counting. You’ve probably also heard “children live what they learn” or some form of that phrase. For me, those two phrases contradict one another.

Recently, I started thinking about that phrase “children are resilient” and whether or not I believed it. I used to say that children are resilient. Not only that, but I have told many parents in kid’s counseling that their children are resilient.

Now, I can recognize what that was for me and what I truly believe about whether or not children are resilient. There are a couple of reasons that I have used that phrase.

The first is that I wanted the parents to feel as though they had not harmed their children to the degree they believed and that their children could heal. Keep in mind that I am aware that their intent was not to harm their children, but it still happened.

The second reason that I used to say that children are resilient is that I didn’t want to accept that the trauma I endured throughout my childhood impacted everything about my life. I wanted to believe that I had put all of that behind me.

“Children are Resilient” is Not Exactly a True Statement

I’m sure many of you can relate to that. As I began challenging my belief that children are resilient, I started thinking about the child world. When we are little, our developing brains are in a state of egocentrism.

In simple terms, egocentrism is viewing the world as if everything is about us. If somebody says or does something, children struggle to understand that it may not have anything to do with them.

From my experience as a psychotherapist, people who endure childhood trauma often stay in an egocentric stage throughout their lives because their emotional needs weren’t met in childhood. If you want to learn more about that, read my post Emotionally Needy? (Emotional needs of Children Aren’t met).

Now, let’s get back to that phrase, “children are resilient.” Typing that now brings up a lot of different feelings now that I have begun changing my view on that. If it were true, then why do we have so many adults who are struggling with their mental health as a result of childhood trauma?

Children Live What They Learn

The answer to that is that us adults did not get what we needed to safely process the trauma, cope, and learn to heal. Without that, children live what they learn.

I was a prime example of “children live what they learn” for many years and still am at times. Throughout my childhood, there was a lot of emotional trauma, and witnessing of physical trauma.

In the “child world,” I learned that what I experienced and what I felt was representative of the entire world. I didn’t feel safe emotionally or physically. So, my sweet little egocentric brain decided that the world wasn’t safe. Nobody was safe for me. Don’t get close to anybody or you will get hurt.

I’m sure you can imagine what that did to me with relationships. I struggled greatly with friendships, romantic relationships, and professional relationships. I was still living in the “child world” that I grew up in where nothing and no person would ever be safe for me.

Again, children live what they learn, and I certainly did that for many, many years. I saw screaming and yelling. So, I learned to scream and yell. I saw my dad leaving when things got tough. So, I left when things got tough.

The Child World

My mom would never talk about her feelings and she would pretend as if everything was ok when our world was falling apart. So, I didn’t talk about my feelings and pretended everything was ok when my world was falling apart.

Now, I’m not blaming my mom or dad for her not knowing how to handle the trauma we all endured. What I am doing is explaining how the phrase “children are resilient” is simply not true.

Instead, in the child world, I learned that everything I was experiencing was normal. That was damaging because the emotional effects of what my “normal” was were intense. So, if that was “normal,” then there must have been something really wrong with me when I was struggling in such a huge way.

Those thoughts were mostly subconscious when I was really young. However, when I started entering adolescence, they became very conscious for me. Leaving the “child world” and entering the adolescent world brought even more negative self-talk for me.

Since I was supposed to be “fine,” and I wasn’t, then that must’ve meant that I was really screwed up. There was something really wrong with me. I was weak. I was worthless and just about every other negative thought a teen could possibly think.

Kids’ Counseling

I was not resilient. Children are not resilient naturally. If they were, then there would be no need for kid’s counseling. Instead, there is a HUGE need for kids’ counseling!

Many kids never get the help they need and they grow up into adults who struggle with believing they are screwed up with mounds of Not Good Enough Stuff like I did. If you want to learn more about what Not Good Enough Stuff is, click here.

While I’m on the topic of kids’ counseling, I want to acknowledge that children CAN be resilient IF they get the help they need. IF their parents recognize the need for kids’ counseling, then that child can become more resilient.

Children can more easily heal than adults because they don’t have as many years of trauma and negative self-talk to work through. Plus, their brains are still developing, and they can more easily learn how to function in a healthier mental state.

If your children have experienced trauma or are struggling with their mental health, PLEASE look into kids’ counseling for them. We don’t need any more children growing up carrying the heavy, incredibly impactful and damaging effects of not getting the help they need.

Inner-Child Therapy

Another way I can prove that the phrase “children are resilient” is not true is by the amount of inner-child therapy I do as a psychotherapist. Every single adult I have ever worked with has needed inner-child therapy.

If you want to learn more about inner-child therapy, click here to read my post What is Inner-Child Work? In short, inner-child therapy is going back to the child that you were and learning how to meet the needs you had that weren’t met.

When our needs are not met as children, we grow up as adults who are still struggling to get those needs met. Typically, that plays out in two different ways and, sometimes, a combination of the two.

The Effects of Childhood Trauma

The first way it plays out is by the child deciding that his or her needs are not important. Therefore, that child never asks for help and does everything under the sun to not be a burden by having needs. That is so sad and probably something that many of you still relate to as adults.

The second way that unfolds is a child doing all kinds of things in an attempt to get his or her needs met. Most often, this results in attention-seeking behaviors. That’s where the phrase “bad attention is better than no attention” comes from. It also causes society to label people with unmet needs as “needy.”

As I mentioned, a child can also display a combination of both of those. I vacillated between the two throughout my childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Not Having Needs and Being “Needy”

There were times when I would let the world know that I didn’t need anybody and I truly believed that. I ran myself into the ground physically and mentally to prove to myself and others that I could do everything on my own.

Other times, I would step into society’s label of being needy. Nobody was giving me the attention I needed. I would create a lot of drama for anybody in my life, attempting to get the attention I needed. To those who knew me then, I sincerely apologize. That was not a fun time for any of them or for me.

Neither of those ever worked well for me and they don’t work well for anybody else. Not only that, but they prove what I keep saying about the phrase “children are resilient.” I was not resilient as a child because I didn’t get the help that I needed.

That applies to EVERY single child who endures trauma and struggles with his or her mental health. They will never be resilient in a way that benefits them if they do not get kid’s counseling or have somebody who meets their needs in a healthy way.

Instead, they will grow up with years of unprocessed, unhealed trauma that many never choose to work on. That is so incredibly sad.

Healing Childhood Trauma

However, if you are reading this, then you are probably one of the few who has made the conscious choice to begin or continue your healing journey. If that’s the case, then I am incredibly proud of you, and you should be, too.

Healing childhood trauma is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I have been on my healing journey for over twelve years. Still, things pop up from my childhood that slap me hard in the face.

I used to get really frustrated about that. I would tell myself, “What the hell? I thought I had done enough work on that.” Now, when that happens, I know it’s time for me to pause and go back to the things that helped me heal previously.

It is my opinion that we are never completely healed. Please don’t let that discourage you though. You will get better, and you will be able to function in a healthier way, but our Not Good Enough Stuff can always pop back up.

When that happens, take a pause like I mentioned and go back to your inner-child therapy or whatever was working for you before it showed back up to slap you in the face. The way I view my “stuff” when it shows back up is as an invitation to go deeper into my healing.

What Do You Believe About Children Being Resilient

So, let’s circle back to the phrase “children are resilient” again. Have you used that phrase? Did you believe that phrase was accurate? If so, why did you say it or believe it? Let yourself do some deep thinking on that.

For me, the reason I said it many times was that it was simply what I’d heard my entire life. When we hear something over and over again, we often believe it as fact. Then, we repeat it over and over without question.

Children CAN be resilient if they get the help they need. If they don’t, then they have a really tough life ahead of them. If you have never gotten the help you needed for all that you endured throughout your childhood and after, please know that it is never too late.

You are never too old. You never have “too much” to begin a healing journey. Even if you start a healing journey and get a few moments of peace, then die a month later, wouldn’t you say those moments of peace were worth it? I’d think so.

Yes, that is a morbid thought, but I’m trying to illustrate that it is never too late to start your healing journey. You are NEVER “too far gone” to begin healing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions you have about my beliefs related to the phrase “children are resilient.” So, please comment at the bottom of this post and I will respond to you.

Also, if you have a topic for a post that you would like for me to write about, leave a comment about that as well. If I feel that I am knowledgeable enough to write about it, I will. Also, if you’re comfortable with it, I will dedicate the post to you!

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DISCLAIMER:

This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.

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Gigi

Thanks so much for this very informative and useful article. I look forward to reading all of your articles and learning more. I feel so heard and supported already.

May I suggest a topic on explaining emotions and listing them extensively by category ? I am so out of touch with my own . Trying to figure out which feeling I am feeling is like testing perfume- after 2 or 3 tries I can’t tell the difference !

Sincerely yours.

Mary Beth Fox

Gigi,
I am so glad you found this useful and that you feel supported on your journey. That truly warms my heart! I will try to work on a post for you explaining emotions in depth. It’s hard to connect to emotions and process them when you weren’t taught to do so, but you can absolutely learn how to do it!
Thank you for reading this and your wonderful comment!
Mary Beth

Jonathan

Gigi,
Something that really helped me was “the feelings wheel” (it’s various forms can be found by doing a quick Google search). I was able to find the “big feeling” and break it down into contributing feelings from there. I am a writer, so journaling about all of that helped me out a lot. As well, it gave me the language to tell others what I am feeling and ask for the support I needed. Hope this helps.
Jonathan

Jonathan

First, I connected completely to the post. As isolated as I feel at times in my journey, I find strength in sharing lived experiences with others.

Second, I have never used the phrase “children are resilient,” and two reasons come to mind. I am not a parent, and because I recall my childhood too well. I was strong, but I wasn’t resilient. I say that because I obviously absorbed my environment and the unhealthy patterns around me. I was (am) strong because I was able to hold them in for so many years. Not to say that holding all of that trauma didn’t come without a price, it’s led to many unhealthy and self-destructive behaviors – “any attention was good attention.”

Speaking of attention, my parents did start me in therapy when I was 12. I didn’t know what it was for or what I was supposed to be doing. I enjoyed the 1/1 attention that my therapy sessions allowed me. Child therapy and trauma work wasn’t a thing in the 80’s and I didn’t start to REALLY do “the work” until about 5 years ago – after MANY substance issues, lost jobs, damaged relationships… I didn’t know any better and thought my experiences were “normal.”

Yes, it is a lifelong journey. For me the hard part is acknowledging what is/was trauma and traumatic and then not gaslighting myself; I’ve had a habit of judging my pain as less than others in the past.

Thank you for this piece. I am bookmarking it and will likely reference it often!

Mary Beth Fox

Jonathan, thank you so much for sharing about your experiences and your healing journey. I am so glad that you were able to begin working on yourself five years ago. It is hard work and it’s worth it. It sounds like you had a really difficult childhood and that IS so hard to heal from.

You are so welcome for my writing this. I wish you continued success on your healing journey, my friend!

Mary Beth