One of my resolutions for the New Year is to send along some thoughts on issues relevant to our Arcadia community. I am drawing on conversations with Camp Arcadia alumnae, current parents, and my own research and reading. Please let me know if there are particular topics you would like me to focus on this year. I will do my best to do so.
It seems fitting to begin 2016 with thoughts about the concept of resilience. The definition of resilience is “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” The word itself has become a buzzword in recent years – on the tip of every parenting expert’s tongue.
This comes to mind because I have recently finished reading Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life written by Eric Greitens. Mr. Greitens is a Navy SEAL, Rhodes Scholar, boxing champion and humanitarian leader — with a Ph.D. from Oxford University.
His wisdom on resilience for his friend and for us is partly drawn from his and his comrades’ experience on the battlefield, and “coming back” – literally and figuratively — from the horrors of war to live a happy, successful life.
Resilience and the importance of building resilience in young people has also emerged into the educational camping world. In a few weeks I will be attending the National Conference of the American Camping Association. In looking over the program listing events and speakers, up pops resilience as a topic of one of the keynote speakers, Julie Lythcott-Haims. Ms. Lythcott-Haims, a former Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising for ten years at Stanford, will talk about her book How to Raise an Adult. In her book she offers practical alternative strategies that underline the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes and develop the resilience, resourcefulness, and inner determination necessary for success.
Research continues to show that instilling in our children an ability to handle age-appropriate adversity and to bounce back when things don’t work out as they expected leads to greater self-esteem and greater happiness and success as adults. While some children are born with a naturally resilient temperament, many experts agree it is a concept that can be modeled and taught, which is why so many active parents are clamoring to learn how to do just that.
And how do we encourage the teaching of resilience at Arcadia? We see the teaching of resilience as one of the foundations of our activity program. Being comfortable and confident with yourself and with living in the outdoors translates into being a comfortable and confident person in the world. At Arcadia we work hard to provide campers with the opportunities to experience independence which will foster self- reliance and a desire to be an active participant in the world around them. Campers choose their own program. Campers learn that everything they do or want is not always successful or possible. In my reading these actions are tied time and time again to the development of grit and resilience.
Some experts also agree that having positive role modeling – not only in parents but in other, trusted adults – makes the concept more real. In fact, a trusted adult often has more influence than a parent. Just think of the counselors and the roadmap they provide for a young person to follow.
At Arcadia we take great care in choosing counselors and staff, and have found that the kinds of women and men who want to spend their summers with children at Camp are often self-selecting in that they are resilient adults who also have a desire to help children learn: a greatly beneficial combination.
Of course, as we think about building resilience in our children, we naturally consider fostering this kind of ability in ourselves. Adults need to be resilient just as much as children do. Building resilience is a life-long process: beginning it as early as possible in a child’s life can reap great regards later in life. But it is never too late to start.
Camp Arcadia life is infused with these concepts, so consider that part of the summer “covered” if you are looking for ways to build resilience in your children.
I have included a few additional books on the topic below.
Warm regards to you,
Louise Fritts Johnson