What an abstract concept is resilience! Are we born with resilience or do we get it from social interactions? What is this process? JUCONI’s team have been asking these questions and more in the last few weeks. The common understanding is that resilience makes you psychologically strong like a bamboo. But we were interested to learn how vulnerable children and families understand it, and not as a technical concept.
So we started asking for real stories from children, adults and members of the JUCONI team. The team started telling stories about children they work with; then they started doing some connections and reflections about what they are looking for in children’s behaviour. Others in the team were interested in listening to positive experiences about children that they were used to hearing negative feedback about, so listening to the stories was a kind of hope for the team too.
For parents it is not easy to recall memories and be attentive to those specific experiences, so it has been a challenge for them. But they feel good when they remember stories that make them feel better.
Some children find it easy to talk about their stories, others are more silent, but it helps that they have a positive relationship with the keyworker.
One girl was asked about a time when she’d had a problem and what she had done. She said:
“Once I was in the school and other girls wanted to bully me. They start saying things about me…they invent things about me and then they were gossiping it to other girls. So I looked them with anger and I knew they were going to beat me after school… Sometimes I won but I did not want to fight so I talked about this to my mother and she advised me that I am not a girl who beat on the streets, and my aunty and my grandmother have told me the same, and I think it is true because I am not a girl from the streets, I have my family. My teacher have told me that it is not good to be fighting on the streets and if we have a problem he send us with other teacher to talk… I know that nobody is perfect and I am still a girl.”
Another interesting reflection was how stories are seen from the view of children and how they are seen from the view of adults. In the first week of telling stories, we realized that we had used the same introductory question for adults and for children – that was our first mistake. After that, we asked more simple questions and it was easier for the children.
The concept of resilience can have a different meaning in each country, and maybe it is because each country has different problems to deal with. Sometimes one child has a good upbringing in a safe environment, while another has to face an hostile environment and try to survive or run away from danger. In Ecuador the general understanding of resilience is around having strength and being able to adapt in different circumstances.