Teaching Children Resiliency

Resiliency houseChildren are constantly learning. Every day, new lessons teach them more about who they are and how to respond to what happens in their lives. However, unexpected situations may throw off a child’s normal routine, leaving them feeling nervous, scared or unsafe. For kids with emotional or behavioral challenges, these feelings of uncertainty and loss of control can cause an even greater impact at home, in school or out in community. Teaching children resiliency – how to cope with life’s difficulties in a healthy way – is important to ensuring their overall well-being, today and in the future.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota’s Kids Resiliency Program (KRP) in Brainerd helps kids understand that the things that have happened to them do not define who they are, and they can control how situations shape their futures. Each day at KRP, trained and certified children’s mental health practitioners help youth discover and develop special strengths that can help them face and overcome challenges.

Jonelle Bollig, program manager for LSS of MN, took some time to explain KRP and the impact it is having on children’s lives. Keep reading to learn more about this innovative resource for children who need extra guidance and how LSS supporters like you can get involved. With your help, we can keep  building stronger families and communities.

Q: The kids in your program have experiences and challenges that impact their behaviors, emotions and wellbeing on a daily basis. Tell us about the kids you work with, and what brought them to your program.

A: KRP supports youth, ages 10 to 14, living with a mental health diagnosis of anxiety, depression, ADHD or a trauma-related stressor. At KRP, our goal is to teach kids with emotional or behavioral challenges the skills they need to manage and maintain their mental health so they can live full and balanced lives.

Three to five days a week, KRP offers kids a place to belong and feel safe. The KRP routine helps to foster feelings of security and validation that youth need to share their experiences. KRP structure also helps kids learn and practice new coping skills so they are better prepared for what might come up in their lives.

Q: Part of creating structure for children is establishing a schedule they can follow. What can kids and their families expect as a typical day at KRP?

A: During the school year, youth are picked up at school and transported to the KRP Baxter House. They are offered a snack and check in with staff and their peers. The youth practice relaxation and calm, usually with meditation. KRP focuses on the importance of learning independence. Every day, youth are assigned chores like meal preparation and cleanup, as well as household tasks to keep the Baxter House in order. After dinner together, it is time for homework. The evening ends with recreational activities, providing youth the opportunity to focus on social skills with peers. The strides a youth will take at KRP are transferred to their home, school and community settings. That is the rewarding part – to see the skills learned at KRP applied to other areas of the youth’s world.

Q: Kids often learn best when they are comfortable. In addition to structure, what are other ways you create a supportive and safe environment where kids feel open to learning and/or receiving help?

A: KRP is operated out of a house in a residential area of Baxter. A unique aspect of the program, this helps kids feel more comfortable and relaxed. A family-style dining table is a gathering place for meals, one more way we can establish consistency and routine. The home has calming colors and comfort items like bean bag chairs, stuffed animals and toys available for them. We also have a calming room and library where kids can go for a quieter place.  These environmental supports really help establish a safe space for kids. When they feel safe, they are more open to sharing and learning, leading to positive change.

Q: Dive a little bit deeper into the work you do to empower kids as they learn to overcome the challenges they face at home, school and their communities.

A: At KRP, kids learn that their voice matters and they are not alone; sometimes, their experiences are shared by other kids just like them. For kids, knowing they are not alone is one of the first steps in processing what they have experienced. Another important part is that kids learn to use kind words rather than disruptive behaviors to express what they need to feel safe and secure.

Q: It sounds like a key component to KRP is building a sense of belonging and community for all kids. How can our readers become involved in KRP and a part of responding to the changing needs of kids and their families?

A: KRP can make a tremendous impact on a child’s life, and community support can help keep it going. We are always looking for more recreational equipment. We are currently in need of a ping pong table in good condition. Art supplies are helpful, as well as chapter books for elementary and middle school-aged readers, Legos and other toys.

We are looking for a volunteer “grandparent” who enjoys gardening, baking, reading out loud and fixing things around the house. Please contact me at 218-297-2020 if you or someone you know is interested in getting involved in KRP.

Q: If a parent or guardian believes their child could benefit from KRP, what steps do they need to take to get their child signed up?

A: I am always willing to discuss referrals for youth. Parents or guardians can a call the KRP House at 218-297-2020. Most importantly, youth need a current mental health diagnostic assessment. If they don’t have one, they can complete an assessment with one of our therapists.

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