Children - and adults - who are able to adapt to life's misfortunes and setbacks are able to bounce back and become strong, resilient people! Although the problems don't go away, kids master the ability to see past them, find enjoyment in life, and handle future stressors better. There is no better place to practice building resilience than in the camp setting, because supports and opportunities abound.
The cornerstones of rebounding skills are caring relationships, high expectations, meaningful participation, and mastery of skills. At camp, children learn to navigate on their own; without their parents to run interference, they achieve a sense of autonomy, independence, responsibility, and empathy. They come to realize, "OK, this bad thing happened, and I can either dwell on it or I can learn from it."
1. Silver Lining Games. Many of the tactics that are practiced at camp can be utilized when camp is over. Remember, setbacks provide opportunities for growth and enable us to look at situations from different perspectives. The goal is to help find positive meaning to a negative event, so play "Silver Lining Games." Look for the silver lining; for example, a child who is homesick can discover that the silver lining to missing home is that he or she loves their home and their family!
2. Mastery Moments. Coach children to be in control of their own world by designating "Mastery Moments." Watch for the mastery moment; simple, repetitive tasks such as getting dressed in a camp uniform every day and being ready in time for the bus to arrive can help a child feel confident and competent.
3. Choices. Frame only good choices and let your child choose: "This or That Games." Keep your eyes open for chances for input from your child: "Would you rather…"
4. What would you do? As decision-making ability increases, so do opportunities for problem-solving. Older children can handle ethical dilemmas or problems; ask them, "What would you do?" When you do that, you are helping your child build a better brain!
Other positive tools to encourage resilience include: engaging in lots of laughter, accepting change, being optimistic, keeping things in perspective, and taking decisive action.
The child who is resilient has someone who loves them dearly, is encouraged and praised for doing things on their own, knows someone else they want to be like, believes things will turn out all right, is willing to try new things, feels he/she makes a difference in how things turn out, and likes to achieve.
Being able to bounce back emotionally takes lots of practice; it is the ultimate pathway to wisdom.