Tele-Support Talks

Building Resilience in Children and Teens

Tele-Support Presentations Library

Originally presented on March 17, 2021

by Dr. Laura Newman

During this past year, children have been faced with the challenge of navigating new ways of learning, socializing, and managing anxiety caused by uncertainty. As a parent, teacher, or caregiver you may feel discouraged because you don’t know how to help your child overcome these obstacles. While it may not be possible to protect your child from the ups and downs of life, you can provide them with the tools they need to be resilient. Emotional resiliency is the ability to re-group and re-bound after a period of stress and hardship. Sometimes what a child learns about her or himself while “bouncing back” is more valuable than where they happen to land. Join us for a discussion about the psychological underpinning of resilience and learn some strategies for optimizing it in the home.


Dr. Newman

Welcome, everybody. I think I’m gonna just stop sharing my screen for a moment. This is Resilience, The Art of Bouncing Back. But I’m going to stop sharing so that you can see me. Hi, my name is Dr. Laura Newman. I’m a psychologist at Lighthouse Guild. I work with adults, teenagers, and parents. In previous settings, I’ve worked with children and in private practice, I work with children as well.

So, I’m very happy to speak about resilience. It’s an issue that’s pretty dear to my heart as a clinician, because it pops up working with every population and in every modality and with every kind of problem. And I’m a parent as well. So, resilience is something that I know is super important to inculcate in our kids. So, I am going to share my screen again, please bear with me because, you know, we’re all getting better at this, but we’re not necessarily perfect at it.

Okay, so welcome to Resilience, The Art of Bouncing Back. And the reason why I connect resilience and bouncing back as well, is for obvious reasons. When we have great setbacks and great stressors, that’s not usually the end of the story. Usually, there is a getting up process of one sort or another, and the stronger the getting up process can be and the more resourceful we can be, and the more support we have around us, can help us and help our children allow that bouncing back process to be one of growth and strengthening. And kind of like that old image of when a tree breaks, or certain other substances break, it’s strongest at the breaking point after it’s healed. So, that’s something that I like to keep in mind about resilience.

So, from a clinical perspective, the psychological community usually defines resilience as the process of adapting well, in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress, such as family or relational problems, serious health problems, workplace and financial stressors. Certainly, the stressors that we’re all experiencing as a result of a pandemic is even greater than some of these things that are being discussed here. Certainly, also, resilience would need to be called into play for things like pandemics or any kind of natural disaster or war. And indeed, the study of resilience in children really began in earnest in the post-World War II era, when children who survived concentration camps were studied in terms of resilience, as well as children, particularly in England, whose towns had been bombed and kind of how the community came together in resilience after that.

Before I get to these dialectical principles, something that’s very, very important to know is that the extent to which a person, while suffering a very stressful situation, has to think about the needs of somebody else, over and over again, in all kinds of stressful situations in which trauma can result. Big traumas as well as you know, small everyday kinds of stressors that our kids might experience, the extent to which the individual has the responsibility, somebody else might be counting on them in some way- that can predict resilience.

So, when a child is somehow in a position, whether it’s forced upon them, or whether it’s just something they kind of look for, or gravitate towards, or teachers or parents help them towards, if they can help someone else, they are going to be stronger for that experience. I mean, it does only make sense. So, in some ways, it’s not at all surprising. But it’s also the extent to which it’s been shown in research is also, I think that part gives it a lot of extra credence.

So well, the way that I like to look at resilience – the way I’m going to be doing this presentation is I’m going to be talking about eight guiding principles for nurturing resilience from what I call a dialectical perspective. I think these are really important, and they override all kinds of things like, the intensity of the stress or the trauma, the age of the person suffering it, because these principles can be adapted to all kinds of situations. And I’m hoping that we can stop on some of these, and people might want to weigh in, because I find it can be sort of stimulating to think about these principles in terms of there is this thing going on. And there’s also this other sort of opposite sounding thing going on, and somehow they have to work together. And that’s what a dialectic is. They have to work together. And that’s where the growth and the strength emerges from. And I don’t think we’re usually taught in those terms. I think we’re usually taught in didactic terms of do this and do this and do this and do this. And I like to think of strengthening for our children and for ourselves in terms of the dialectic of where the where the growth and where the breadth of learning can come from, especially where opposite needs are evoked in our parenting roles, and with our children.

Well, this first one, I have to apologize, I don’t know if there’s a word called a trilectic. But on this first one, I can’t help it, I had to put it in terms of a three-faceted thing. But this is the only one that’s a three-faceted thing. And it’s what I mentioned before, teaching your child how to help another person is a proven way to boost resilience. And so is teaching your child to ask for and accept help. And it’s important to every-once-in-a-while for a child to learn to say, and it needs to be modeled by the adults, “I am so sorry, but I don’t want to do that, I’m doing this other thing now.” We can even say, “I can’t help you right now.” Of course, that’s not what we want to nurture most of the time, but it’s important, it’s just as important as the other two things that we always talk about that, you know, we want our children to be able to help others as well. As I was saying, that’s super important for boosting resilience. We certainly want our kids to be able to ask for help, but we also want our kids to be able to say, “I can’t help you right now” sometimes, because this is how we learn boundaries.

For a child to have a developing sense of strong boundaries. It’s very important for all types of stress management, all kinds of anxiety, coping with anxiety, even coping with depression, but certainly coping with anxiety and stress. A person needs to have boundaries, and it’s our job to show our children how to do that. And we can model all of these things. I’m a believer in modeling it, very intentionally, by even saying to myself, as a therapist, as well as as a parent. Today, I think it’s important for this client of mine or for this child of mine to see me thinking about how to offer help, or today it’s important for the child to see me asking for help, or today it’s important for the child to see me setting boundaries. So, I might think about that in advance of the day. Okay, that’s the first. As I said, trilectical I think I’d like to coin that word. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before. 

Okay, the second thing is to have lots of predictability. When people are going through any kind of stressor, it’s important for there to be predictable experiences, meal times, play times.  In school, you know, there’s a lot of predictability. And also a bit of spontaneity and surprise, to the extent that your child can deal with it, because it’s different how much people can deal with that, among adults as well. But it’s another way of developing coping mechanisms, because when there’s spontaneity of small kind of mean, somewhat insignificant experiences over the course of the day in a fun way. And again, this kind of thing for certain kinds of developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorder, things like that, it’s much more difficult to incorporate that. But I still think it’s aspirational, even for kids who have conditions in which it’s very difficult. That kind of flexibility is going to build resilience as well. Because what is stress management, if it’s not the ability to say, “Okay, this bad thing is happening, but I can get through it.” That actually is resilience- I can get through it. Because even though this thing never happened to me before, I know what it’s like to have curve balls thrown my way. And I’ve managed them in the past. So, when we help our children to do that in small ways, that allows them to have the strength to begin to be able to do it in bigger ways as well.

And something I guess, I want to say that Sheila and I were talking about a little bit before, is that when we conceived of doing this, of presenting this theme, we were really still in the throes of the pandemic. And so much of what we all thought is that everything that we talk about in terms of stress management has to really be centered around the pandemic. I am going to mention a couple of specific things about the pandemic in the end. And I certainly would like to entertain questions that are specific to the pandemic. But I also think that as we are coming out of the pandemic, and in, you know, not in every way, but in some significant ways, I ended up formulating this presentation in a much more general sense.

So, related to predictability, I would say that, for example, when kids have hybrid classes, sometimes they’re usually going in on Monday and Wednesday, but sometimes because of school changes, they have to go in on a Tuesday or Thursday. So maybe at home kind of switching things up. If you usually have pizza on a Friday, say, “let’s just not do it that way this time, let’s see what it’s like to have pizza on Saturday.” Things like that can be small, but useful, for children in terms of developing that ability to handle spontaneity and surprise. 

Okay, the next one is model persistence and grit. For obvious reasons, I think we all know that those are two very, very important character strengths that are correlated with success and happiness in life and model taking breaks for regenerative self-care activities, which means the child hearing you say, “you know, I worked really hard, and it was it was kind of kind of a long, I think I really just need to shut down a little bit here.” You know, especially in our society, we’re constantly kind of talking about the importance of persistence and grit. I know teachers talk about that a lot these days as this, you know, these character strengths that are proving to be so important. But it’s really equally important for our children to recognize that they can take a break from being persistent, they should take a break from being persistent, from being actively persistent.

Well, there is another important thing to keep in mind which is that very often, when a child is struggling with something, it’s only after they take a break, and put it away, and then all these kinds of unconscious processes are happening, neurobehavioral processes are happening. And then there’s like an aha moment, the next day. So, it’s not only for the purpose of showing children how to practice self-care, but you know, on the sly, it might actually lead to meeting some goals that they were having struggles with trying to power through on just persistence and grit.

I guess that’s the main thing I want to say is that we over emphasize that it’s super important, but we can’t always just power through on those things, that persistence and grit are kind of within the groundwork of bigger things than just that, and taking breaks and regenerating with self-care is very important.

Help your child develop her own self-care activities to perform independently. And oh, look, I switch the gender right there, that’s okay. And help him say he wants to share in the care with you. So, we like to cuddle with young children, we like to read to children of all ages, maybe listen to music together, whatever the self-care activities are that your child and your family really appreciate. And we do like to do that. And it’s important to do that with our kids. And it’s also important to encourage the child to do that for themselves as well. I think it’s self-explanatory why both of those things would be important. But I think it sometimes in some of the attitudes that we have around self-care for adults are that it’s something that you kind of do all by yourself. And of course, for children, we don’t we don’t think in those terms. But we probably should sometimes think in those terms for children to encourage them to do things on their own, and then certainly, soothing activities with us. But to the extent that they can develop the ability to self-soothe. That’s very important. It comes at different developmental stages for different children, but we like to see it. 

The next one, model patting yourself on the back. And sometimes model yourself noticing things out loud, that you wish you had done differently, or even better, but in a non self-critical way. That’s real, that’s part of growing. And it’s difficult for a lot of us, it’s difficult for our kids very often because there’s so much of a sense of performance and measuring up, and things like that in the school setting. To the extent that we’re able to say, “I didn’t do as well as I would have liked to have done on that project,” or playing that music or on this drawing that I did, or whatever it is. I didn’t do such a great job this time. I wish I had done a better job. “Hmm, well, I don’t always do as good a job as I wish I could.” That’s life, it doesn’t feel good, but that’s life. And when we do good, “wow, I rocked it, I knocked that out of the park, I did such a great job on that.” Model those things and encourage your children to pat themselves on the back. Because it feels so good. And because again, I think as a result of virtual learning, the teacher literally can’t walk around and pat the kid on the back, which is so needed.

And also, it’s important for kids to see that it’s not the end of the world to fall short sometimes, you know.  Similarly, to this is the idea of encouraging our children to do the best they can, even very sort of progressive parents are quick, I would say I would be one of those to, you know, I’m not going to not going to emphasize what grade you get. I’m going to emphasize that you try your hardest and do your best, you know, that’s realistic. We want you to do your best and try your hardest a lot of the time, but there are going to be certain things things where it’s very reasonable to say, “You know what, I’m not going to try my best on this kind of thing.” And that developmentally, I would say that that’s something that a little kid can’t really hear. We do want to inculcate, do your best, but at a certain age, you know, maybe around middle school or high school, it’s kind of like a sneaky truth that you know what? We’re human, and we can’t give 100% all the time, we there wouldn’t be anything left for the for the things that are most important to us.

So, I think it’s very important for our children to see us talking about those things and, and let it be okay for them to sometimes say, “I did a pretty good job. I didn’t do my best, but I did pretty well on that thing,” and then that’s okay sometimes.  Sometimes we want them to do their very, very, very best and give 100%. 

Okay, maintain an optimistic outlook, and allow space for feeling down, being irritable, grumpy, becoming emotional.  It was hard not to become emotional during the depths of the pandemic, but re-regulating from it quickly. It’s important for our children to see that it’s possible that we don’t have to be sunny all the time. A person can have a bad day, a person can have, you know, a couple of irritable days.

Of course, we’re gonna optimize a cheerful attitude and a positive outlook and optimism and hopefulness. Of course, I mean, 100% that’s what we prefer, it’s healthy for us. It’s healthy for our kids. But nobody was like that all the time. It’s unrealistic to expect it. I don’t even think it’s aspirational. I think what’s aspirational is to accept all feelings and moods. And however, to not knock them out too much. And to re-regulate, be mindful, use those self-soothing activities to be able to get through them and past them. And of course, when I say that it’s acceptable, and it’s even to be encouraged sometimes to make space for those kinds of bad moods. I don’t mean, well, with a little kid, I really do mean it’s okay to throw tantrums. With a teenager, certainly we don’t want a real dysregulation of angry emotion. But irritability, maybe a tiny little bit of attitude every once in a while. Again, not much. We don’t want a lot of that. But to not make too big a deal of it when those things happen. And to let ourselves say, “Oh, I’m in a really grumpy mood today, I was in a grumpy mood yesterday.” Okay, next day comes, the sun is shining, I’m not grumpy anymore, guys. I think it’s important for kids to see us doing that so that they are able to ride their emotions as well and see that there’s no such thing as one mood and to accept that we all move through moods, and especially during times of tremendous stress, we will have to be able to do that. 

Okay, this one is model trying out new activities and model sometimes saying, “honestly, that just doesn’t really interest me. You have fun, and I’m gonna find my own thing to do.” I think this is another one of these things where we really accentuate the extent to which our kids can try new things. And obviously, it’s wonderful to have breadth of experience and to be courageous and adventurous about new activities and take on challenges. And it’s also okay to sometimes say, “that’s not me, that kind of thing is not me, and it’s not something that I want to stretch in.” Not too often, but it’s acceptable. I’m emphasizing these dialectical qualities because I believe strongly that they boost resilience. Did they model trying new activities, which is the obvious thing to model. Yes, that confers a lot of benefit to children’s social, emotional, intellectual development and all of that. But I think that the flipside of it is about saying, not necessarily all the time, it’s okay sometimes to be aware and say, “that’s not really for me.” That does have to do with boundaries, that has to do with empowerment and self-advocacy. And as they get older, it’s really important for them to be able to say, “that kind of thing just doesn’t interest me.” And I think this is the last Yeah, this is the last of my dialectical values here. 

Embrace change, and also allow space for mourning the old and the familiar when it’s time to move on. And I think that that’s something that happened a lot during the pandemic. We had to somehow put on a brave face about the changes for our kids in our lives. But for our kids, we had to put on a brave face about how virtual learning can be interesting and different, and has some benefits, and all of that. But we had to let our kids cry about what they lost. Kids lost out on graduations. Kids lost out on obviously seeing their friends and their teachers, some big milestone experiences, eating lunch in the cafeteria, things like that, they just really missed.

I guess it’s obvious that we have to make space for that in big ways. But even in small ways, you know, back in the old days, and again, I’m sure in the future days as well, it might not be so exciting about moving from elementary school to middle school. And we do want to encourage them to embrace the change. But we also want to embrace the mourning process, not just think, of course, we’re going to accept the mourning process in our children, because it only makes sense to accept it. But we also need to embrace it and say, “Yes, that’s admirable that you’re giving voice to those feelings, I’m always here, I want to hear those things. And it’s good that you have access to those feelings. Thank you for expressing that.” So those are the dialectical sort of values around building resilience that I wanted to present. I don’t know if anybody has any thoughts about any of those, how those are hitting anybody. So I’d like to see if anybody has anything to say about that.


I had a question about school, and a parent accepting imperfection, I guess you would say because now, you know, most schools have it built into their system that you get it on your phone. I feel like it’s almost like they’re goading parents to care so much about every single grade, that it gets overwhelming for parents. I have a lot of parents in my practice that come in and they are so overwhelmed. Because they see somebody got a C on a grade, but they can make it up, so why don’t they get an A? I mean, I have a lot of parents that really struggle with that. If they could redo it, why don’t they get it perfect? Why don’t they get it perfect? Why don’t they get it perfect? And we kind of try to back and forth on that.

Dr. Newman

And the problem is the parents that you’re encountering with is with the teacher or with their kid?


Well, so it’s, you know, it’s on the system. So, like all those schools that my kids go to you connect to a parent portal, and they load every grade, every single grade. So we can see everything that the child has done wrong. And right. It feels like it’s so hard to focus on all those right things. Because you could say, Well, you’re just watching TV, go do this report right now go redo it, why don’t you redo it? And this becomes this argument between parent and child. 

Dr. Newman

The teachers are getting pressure from their higher ups as well. So, it’s a very difficult problem to circumvent. I think it’s not an easy thing to do, I think that sometimes it’s important, but it’s very hard for a parent to try to not look at those grades all the time. I mean, I know for my child who’s in high school, that they never had that kind of portal, and they still don’t have that kind of portal. So, I can’t know. I can contact teachers, but it’s not right there. But when my daughter was in middle school, you know, way prior to the pandemic, the Portal, it would pop, it would notify me, I remember, notify me when a teacher posted a grade. I’d be at work and I’d see a grade is there, it’s like, am I gonna go check it? And I really had to force myself, sometimes I would take that thing off my phone. So, at least I would have to wait till I got home to look at it.

But I think that some of that is on us as parents; the system isn’t helping us. But, I think that unless there’s a particular reason why a parent needs to see every grade coming in, it’s probably a good idea to not see every grade that’s coming in. How does that hit people? Does that seem unrealistic, and it’s just too hard to do these days? I’m curious. Okay, well, that’s what I think would be helpful.


Someone in the chat said they’re realistic, but parents need to be trained. And I do and I feel like their training right now is to watch all their grades. And one of the things I did when I started with my oldest is, I went to the parent teacher conferences and told them I would not be checking, so if there is a problem, please let me know. Because it was impacting my relationship with my child. Because I said I need to trust them. And I do trust them. But it doesn’t it doesn’t feel like trust when I’m going to them with every mistake they’ve made.

Dr. Newman



We do also have another comment in the text about any given context for why lower grades are an opportunity to learn how to improve and tolerate imperfection. Oh, that’s just a comment. I agree

Dr. Newman

Read that again, Sheila.


it says “and given context for why lower grades are the opportunity to learn how to improve and tolerate imperfection.”

Dr. Newman

Yeah, right.


We also have another question about that these principles are good for typical children, but how do you see working with children with significant delays, neurological communication, autism, vision, those types of things?

Dr. Newman

Yes, and I do think that things are different when there are developmental delays. And I also think that the value system remains so you know, like I mentioned on one or two of them, so on the thing about unpredictability, kids with certain kinds of developmental delays, the kind of input unpredictability that they could tolerate, would be very small, you know. It could be as small as I mean, you know from your own child, but it could be as if it’s, if it’s going to be with a child who has that kind of delay, it would have to be something that was very pleasing to the child, like something like having ice cream with breakfast or something like that.

I also understand that there would be some children who would then expect that every day. I would have to speak directly to people about the specifics of how much some of these things would have to be tweaked in one direction or the other. Right? The way I’m presenting it, is that there’s a kind of a balance on the two ends of the dialectic, but for sure, for certain children, that balance has to be, you know, shifted way in one direction or way in the other direction. But I think it would be rare that one side of the dialectic would need to be completely chopped off. It’s possible, but I think it would have to do with the subtlety of the embrace of the dialectic idea, rather than just an abandonment of it all together. Does that make sense? 


I have a question. Yes. Um, I think with the embrace change and allow space for mourning, I think I took that away from my son when I found out about his vision loss, because I was kind of like, well, we gotta get prepared for this, you know, this is happening, there’s nothing we can do about it. We just have to figure out what we can do from here on. Is that something that I can allow for him to do now? It’s been almost three years since he started losing his vision.

Dr. Newman

Well, I would take the lead from him. Are there things that come up that he would like to do, but they are either just not possible at all, or they present a whole bunch of challenges that they wouldn’t have presented if he wasn’t losing his vision?


Yes, ma’am. We’ve experienced both.

Dr. Newman

Can you give an example of the kind of thing, please?


He loved drawing. And when he started losing his vision, of course, that was kind of taken away from him. So I’ve been trying to figure out things that he can do to get his love back for drawing. And he’s like, “Well, I can’t do it. So let’s just move on.”

Dr. Newman

If that’s still an active thing, that’s, you know, that’s happening now, in the moment, I would definitely share with him about how hard it is to lose that. And, you know, sometimes there’s that feeling that we have as parents to try to jump to the problem solving phase. And we don’t necessarily give the space for the kids to have the emotions. And we can be doing the problem solving in our mind. But I think a way to do it is to say to the child, you know, I hear how much you lost and how hard it is for you. I have some ideas. But maybe you’re not ready to hear them yet. Should we spend some time just talking about how bad this is right now. And allow ourselves to say that. It’s so hard because we want to maintain that optimistic attitude. But we can say that this stuff is really, really difficult. And we wish it didn’t happen, but it’s happening. So we’re sad. Do you need to talk about that?

Give a little space, because the kid might say, you know, like take a sign. There’s also the body language involved. He might just be grateful that you know what he’s feeling; he might not want to talk about it. But he might. I think he would be grateful to know that you acknowledge it. And I think it’s a good idea to ask a child, “should we stay with the feelings here? Or are you ready to start thinking about problem solving solutions that we can come up with?” Does that make sense?


Yes, ma’am. Thank you.

Dr. Newman

You’re welcome. So here, I’m talking about some of the specific things that come up around resilience based on age. And again, you know, the chronological age might not match the developmental age. And I don’t know the levels that children are at of the parents that are here right now, or the teachers that are here right now. But I think these can be used as guideposts and adjusted down based on how much of a developmental delay there might be with a child.

So, for elementary school kids or for kids that are functioning at that elementary age level, even if they’re older, having a cozy corner at home.  Seeing now that kids are going back to school if there’s one in the classroom. Sometimes now, even in third and fourth grade classrooms, there’s a cozy corner. And that’s a place where a child can learn self-soothing activities. You know what your child soothes with, and if it’s a kid with a developmental delay who isn’t able to do it on his or her own, you sit with the kid in there. But it’s a place it’s a place where those self-soothing activities can be nurtured and developed.

So, also thinking about how much you want to guide your child down a path that you are pretty sure is important, you know, like certain broad overriding things that most of us parents would say are important, like doing well in school, having friends. Of course, those things are important. And also just listening to the child around what’s important to him or her. And again, that only makes common sense.

But I recently was listening to somebody talk about how we call what we do parenting, but we should call it childing – to center the child in the process, not to center the parent in the process. That made an impression on me. So I wanted to put that out there that yes, of course, we know that we have our goals and aspirations and ideas are what we think is good for the child. And we’re usually pretty right about a lot of that. And there are things that there are paths that the child wants to go down that, you know, we’re bringing the child’s character to fruition more than imbuing a character within our child. I think that’s what I’m trying to say. Especially when our child is young, we think that we’re inculcating some character traits and personality things inside of our child. But really, it’s there, so much of the child is there already. And I guess, too, when we have a child with a developmental delay, we are pulling things up to the extent that we can because we have some supports in place, and we have a sense of where we can get the child from here to there, and try to make that happen.

And it’s also still the case developmental delay, or no developmental delay, our children’s personalities are somewhat already in place. And I’m not talking about developmental abilities. I’m talking about personalities. It’s so easy to think we have more impact on that than we have. And if we can kind of take a breath and say, “my child’s personality is something that he or she came with” I think that that allows for the child to be him or herself in some ways that are important, again, for managing stress for self-love, and those qualities are important for resilience. 

I’ll talk about screen time a little bit for the different developmental phases. So, prior to age three, no screen time. And you know, that’s the advice given by pediatricians. I think it’s almost impossible. I think very few people give their child no screen time, if they have the capacity to use a screen in any kind of way. The advice is for three to five year olds- one hour, and one and a half hours for six to 10 year olds. And something that I think is very important is a philosophy- an educational philosophy. But I think it’s important for emotional mental health as well, called Plan, Do, Review. It came out of work from a long time ago in the 70s, I believe, around preschool education, and improving success in underserved communities. So this Plan, Do, Review idea is talking to your child about and especially around screen time, because it allows the development and mindfulness.

Talk to your child about “what are you going to do on the screen, not just take the screen and space out. What are you going to do? What do you hope to get out of it?” And then leave the kid alone for the appropriate amount of time, whatever it is. They do the thing and then talk to the child again and say, “so what you did, did it kind of match what your goals were?” And that kind of plan to review it. It’s very useful for developing mindfulness around activities for all kinds of activities. But I think for something like screen time that has the great potential for just zoning out and losing mindfulness, and even losing the ability to have mindfulness because it trains children to not have mindfulness. I think that Plan, Do, Review is very important around screen time. I encourage you to use it, and it’s also fun. So I hope that you’ll consider using that with your child. Middle school children – in middle school years, that’s when empathy becomes extremely important. It’s the antidote to bullying and othering. We hope that empathy has been developing prior to that. But it’s very important that it be in place in middle school years, because that’s when the ghosting and online bullying and all that all the kinds of othering activities that are so prevalent, really begins in the middle school years.

Of course, it continues beyond that by high school for, again, depending on developmental level. Well, depending on developmental level, kids might not have the experience of having to cope with bullying and cyberbullying, and othering and things like that. But to the extent that children do, it usually rears its head in its most ugly way in middle school.

It’s very important if bullying occurs in any form, to jump in with schools, or other parents. I think we’ve all seen that the idea of well, when I was growing up, there was bullying, and we just dealt with it on our own, we see that that doesn’t apply to this generation, because of probably primarily because of social media and all different kinds of forces that have made it much more toxic. So we do have to jump in as the adults.

I want to talk a little bit about smartphone monitoring and social media monitoring. That you have to decide for yourself as a family what makes sense. But one legitimate choice is to say to the child, your phone is not your diary, because your diary is something that only you have access to, but your phone is something where other people have access to you, and therefore your safety predicates that it is not a private place. And it’s hard to have that conversation when kids are older. And again, not all families will go along with that. It’s my belief that for minors, the phone can’t be seen, the child has to grow up understanding that the phone is not a private place. And then that way the child isn’t isn’t going to feel invaded, if the parents are not so invaded, if the parent does have to look at the phone, for safety.

So for me, what makes sense is never to look at the phone just out of curiosity. Only look at the phone, when there’s a safety concern, and doing it with the child. So I think the parents should sit with the child and say I’m concerned about XY and Z. I overheard this, or I saw this, or you’re acting in a way that makes me worried and I need us to sit down and look at what’s going on on your phone. And the earlier you start that for kids who do have devices that they use, the easier it’ll be when teenage years hit and it’s really important. And for this age group, two hours a day of screen time is acceptable.

Those other things that we talked about for other ages and all those dialectical values, it’s important to continue to model those – they don’t go away, they just kind of change. High School – for older kids, high school kids, if they’re at that developmental level, but for everybody at some point, even at some lower developmental levels, it’s very important to say you know, there are things that you know that I don’t know. I understand that for a child who’s very developmentally delayed, it might be hard to access that. There’s going to be something that they know.

And I think it’s important, even if they’re not verbal, to embrace the power of their cognitions and let them know, as they get older, that their cognitions have weight in some kind of way. For kids who have greater developmental ability, it’s in more concrete ways to kind of understand what they know about certain things that we as adults just don’t know about. And allow them to have a sense of empowerment around their mind. And encourage kids as they get older, and as they’re able to, to make some kind of contribution to the world in any form, to the extent that the child has delays, doing it with them, but having them recognize that they can, that they can help and they can contribute. And again, that will boost a sense of resilience, because as we discussed, helping others is one of the most strengthening things for ourselves, and research shows that again and again, still, the recommendation is just two hours a day. And even for us grownups, the recommendation is two hours a day. And I know that that’s really hard, especially if we’re working online all the time. And we always have devices, but that is the recommendation.

Why is there such an emphasis on the relationship between screen time and resilience? I alluded to it before that screen time is the singular activity that robs us of the ability to be mindful, and to marshal mindful awareness. Mindful awareness is the core strength that is going to get us through trauma and get us through significant stressors, by managing kind of through all those dialectical values that we’ve talked about, we have to be mindful in order to do that for ourselves, and how to do that for our children. Being aware of what we’re feeling, aware of what we’re thinking, understanding those things in a non-judgmental kind of way. When we tune out and go on devices, it’s kind of similar, almost kind of similar to drugs in the sense that all of that mindfulness is out the window. And it’s necessary in order to build resilience. So that’s why there’s such an emphasis on screen time, when we’re talking about resilience. 

And just a little bit about will the pandemic have a lasting impact on my child? So a lot of the historical research shows that the amount of direct exposure to a trauma is correlated with psychological outcome and the ability to muster resilience. So, to the extent that a family suffered significantly among its members, as a result of the pandemic, or any other kind of trauma, the degree to which the losses are in the family of whatever sort, and my condolences and my appreciation for what you’ve gone through.  If you are a family that suffered a loss of a loved one, of jobs, all of those very, very difficult things that will predict the ability of children to show resilience. The further away it is, obviously, the easier it is to be resilient.

Nursing and caregivers is another thing that research shows is correlated with greater resilience in children. Then I guess this is somewhat related to the idea of helping and contributing, having some sense of purpose emerging out of the trauma can boost resilience. So for some people that’s related to a faith practice, for some people in some communities that’s related to mutual-aid organizations, community service, even just having a growing conscious awareness of how people that are not exactly like me- what their experience in the world is, and what the connections between groups are, as opposed to what the differences are. That’s something that can be seen as a higher purpose as well.

So, having some of that talk in your family can help with boosting resilience in children. So, I guess that’s our time. I’m interested in feedback. And I’ll say that I’m aware, and I’m sorry about the issue of having to stretch around different developmental levels. I’m happy to try to talk about this with people. If anybody wants to contact me about specific children in specific families, though, at any point, my number is 212-769-7813. Thank you.


Does anyone have any follow ups? Anything to add or any questions for Laura? An  interesting thing. I have an older son, he’s 18. And when the pandemic hit, he said something really interesting. He’s like, “Well, at least I’m going through something that everybody, the universal trauma that everybody’s having.” He felt like, even though he was more disconnected to people, he knew that there was like a bigger purpose, that this is something that he’ll always remember, it’s not just him, it’s everybody that was alive during the pandemic will always remember that.

Dr. Newman

Right? I mean, I remember when I gave another guest speaker thing on the teleseminar in the beginning of the pandemic, I remember saying that something that we can talk to our kids about, is, think about, you know, your grandpa, or I think about my grandpa talking about whatever it was, the depression or World War II, or Korean War, Vietnam, whatever it was. And then these kids now will talk about the pandemic in that way. It is something that will bond them together forever, for sure. Yeah, my daughter graduated high school, and began college during the pandemic, and I can’t just think of any rite of passage that feels more significant than doing that during a pandemic.


Yeah. Well, thank you, this was really helpful. We did get a comment about the principles as applicable to children with multiple disabilities.  It does take a lot of collaboration with SLPS, OTS, BCBA, PBIs, teachers, etc, to implement all these things, and i.e, self advocacy.

Dr. Newman

Yes, for sure. I would love to talk specifically about how things like this play out within specific cases of specific disabilities or knowing the degree of disability. I kind of think it’s like, along the lines of creativity, you wouldn’t say, oh, but with developmental disability, you know, how do you incorporate creativity? You know, it’s an important value to incorporate in children and we figure out how it can be incorporated.

We have to be creative in order to know how to do that. But we don’t say it’s such a stretch, so we’re not going to do it. Or, I guess for people who have a faith practice. I don’t think anybody would say, oh, but you know, it’s too esoteric, or ethereal of like how this is concrete. So I’m not going to try to inculcate the faith practice. No, they will figure out a way of how to do it at that child’s level. And I think it’s fascinating to figure that out, and yet impossible in this forum to do that. But I can only say that I encourage people to try, because I think they’re overriding and I think the dialectical approach is good in many ways, and it’s proven around other kinds of treatments. And I think it’s been very valuable in the work that I’ve done with clients and with my own children. And I know that it can be worked out in all kinds of situations. But it’s very, very difficult. There you go.


Okay, thank you very much, Laura. And thank you, everybody else, make sure you tune in. Stay on our page. If you’re new here, make sure you sign up for that Lighthouse newsletter. And hopefully we will see you next month for another presentation. Thank you, everybody. Bye.

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