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Resilient Children and Creative Problem Solving

Resilient children are children who are adaptable despite circumstances, challenges, and traumatic events. These children are able to develop, as their peers, despite encountering adverse circumstances (p. 378-379).

Children who encounter protective factors tend to be more resilient. Protective factors are influences that decrease the effects of stress and trauma and allow a child to develop positively. Protective factors include positive relationships and positive cognitive functioning (p. 379). Perhaps due to their personality, intelligence or relationships they have encountered, resilient children are able to adapt and overcome stressful childhood experiences. Resilient children tend to have a positive connection with a parent, caregiver or with an important person in their life, such as a teacher or counselor.

A social worker friend and I came up with the word for to describe these care giving individuals, “cookie people”. People who give warmth and compassion, who model positive behaviors and give love and guidance. In our experiences we found children who did not have “cookie people” in their lives are more likely to have more severe mental health and behavioral issues, and have difficulty connecting with others (such as ODD/ CD children).

Moreover, intelligence and creative problem solving tend to allow a child to learn adaptive skills necessary for survival and development. Because these children are adaptable and intelligent, they in turn may attract “cookie people”, such as teachers or school personnel. Many of the homeless teens I worked with were resilient adolescents. They found school personnel willing to advocate for them and were likely to stay in school and graduate, despite experiencing traumatic and abusive childhoods from primary caregivers. These children found school to be a safe haven from the abuse and neglect they experienced and relied on the school to provide a consistent and encouraging environment (including the basics such as free breakfasts/lunches). Often these teens’ intelligence, coupled with their personalities, created situations where adults wanted to advocate for their interests.

Children who have had long-term trauma or abuse or multiple risk factors tend to have more difficulty adapting than children who had a single incident or only one negatively impacting risk factor.


Papalia, D. E., Olds, S. W., & Feldman, R. D. (2004). Human Development (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.

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