Last week I was reminded that, although we as adults–educators, parents, and friends alike–want to protect young people from pain and suffering.

Last week I was reminded that, although we as adults–educators, parents, and friends alike–want to protect young people from pain and suffering, we cannot protect them from all hardship. Painful things happen in their lives despite our best efforts to prevent them.

If we cannot protect our children from hardship or even more significant adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), what does that mean for their future? As a school leader and parent, I take heart in research that emerged in 2019 about the power of positive childhood experiences (PCEs). A study identified 7 PCEs that can foster resiliency even in the presence of difficulty:

  • Being able to talk about feelings within a caring family unit
  • Feeling that their family pulls together in unity even when things are difficult
  • Experiencing safety and protection with an adult in the home
  • Being part of family and community traditions
  • Feeling a sense of belonging during the high school years
  • Being connected to a supportive group of peers
  • Having at least two non-parent adults who value and affirm them

With 6 to 7 PCEs in place during their growing up years, the likelihood of developing depression or mental health issues in adulthood decreased by 72%. Those who had 6-7 PCEs during childhood were also 3.5 times more likely to seek needed support for their social and emotional wellbeing in adulthood. None of these strategies stopped hardships from happening, but they helped to build resilience along the way.

Although I am new to Dalat this year, I can see at least 4 of those 7 PCEs actively on display at school. As a multi-generational community, we enjoy meaningful and anchoring Dalat traditions together. Ask any student to share about their favorite community events, and you will discover some long-standing special traditions. Our students connect to create strong, caring bonds with one another and grow to develop a sense of “This is who we are at Dalat.” Our staff, coaches, dorm parents, and many volunteers value and affirm our students, celebrating their giftings and speaking truth into their lives of who God has created them to be.

All of these things give me hope that, even if we cannot shelter our children and young adults from difficulty and hardship, we all play a part in building their resiliency through the experiences we give them in this community. These PCEs do not happen by accident, but require purposeful action. Let’s work together to intentionally build resilience in our community.

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