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Teaching and Practicing Resilience

Local column: Teaching and practicing resilience

Parenting your kids to build resilience will pay off in spades over the years, writes Taryn Yates.

They say parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love.

Based on my limited two years of experience, I’d have to agree. It’s not an easy gig. Raising a child requires a lot of energy and sacrifice. You lose out on sleep, personal time and social time with friends. I feel lucky if I get to see my best friends once a month. Each day seems like going through an emotional and physical obstacle course, at the end of which you are rewarded with tiny hugs and an indeterminate amount of sleep. Despite the various challenges, I wouldn’t change a thing. My love for my family and gratitude for my situation are both strong factors in fostering my personal and parental resilience, one of the key protective factors against child maltreatment.

The idea of resilience as a crucial factor in both child development and parenting has gained popularity among professionals and the general community. Most people agree it generally means the ability to bounce back from adversity — and to learn from it. We learn to be resilient as a result of our experiences. You too are resilient — if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here. So, how can you build upon that resilience and foster your inner-strength?

Building resilience usually requires both external supports and possibly a few internal shifts in thinking. Experts say a key factor of resilience is being “future-oriented”. Or, stated more simply: Hope. Thinking about your future and even picturing it in your mind is a very simple way to build your internal resilience. When worried thoughts threaten to overwhelm me, I like to picture what my sons will be like when they are older. My husband and I like to joke that their future teachers will refer to them as “those Yates boys”, based on the rather assertive adventurousness that our first-born already demonstrates. Imagining my curly-haired offspring getting into good-natured shenanigans has eased me out of more than one post-partum anxiety attack.

Another essential ingredient to resilience is external supports. Both having actual support or the ability to find and secure support will build your resilience. It could be the emotional support of a best friend or neighbor who will watch your child in an emergency, a trusted mechanic that lets you make payments, or a long-term doctor who has worked with you through difficult physical ailments.


Parents with hope and support are less likely to abuse and neglect their kids for the simple reason that they are able to cope with stress better. Unchecked stress can cause parents to lash out physically, yes, but it’s even more likely to put them in situations where they can’t provide for their children’s physical and emotional needs because their own needs are too overwhelming.

If you are struggling, start building your resilience today. First, acknowledge your success in making it as far as you have despite your hardships. Then evaluate the things that are working in your life. Maybe you have a great family and friends, a roof over your head, and a week’s worth of food in your pantry. These things all count as support. How can you get more of these supports? Part of resilience is believing that difficult times will pass and empowering yourself to do what is necessary to keep yourself afloat until they do. Sometimes that first step is just asking for help. Try visiting or calling 211, the Idaho Careline. You and your family are worth it!

Yates, Master in Social Work, is a grants manager and planner for the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund/Prevent Child Abuse Idaho.

What is Emotional Competence?

Local column: What is emotional competence?

The first step for parents is to role model the behavior you would like to see in your child, writes Taryn Yates.

I’m happy to say that I’m expecting my second child.

However, I’ve been fairly stereotypical in the sense that pregnancy makes me cry more easily than normal.

One day I was crying over an animal-related video on Facebook while my son played next to me. He noticed my tears and came over to me. “Mommy sad” he said, touching my face.

His little eyebrows were drawn together and I was at once touched at his attention and a little embarrassed to be “caught” crying over Facebook. “Mommy is fine, baby, I’m just pregnant.” I said with a shrug.

He stroked my cheek for a second and, satisfied with my answer that I’m sure he didn’t actually understand, he resumed playing.

As it struck me what had happened, I smiled with pride. At 25 months old, my son just demonstrated the ability to name an emotion based on my facial expression. This is the first step toward developing social and emotional competence — a quality in children that protects them against child abuse and neglect.

What exactly is social and emotional competence? It involves various abilities. For example, a person with a high level of this skill would be able to perceive the emotions of others based on facial expressions and nonverbal cues.

Not only can they “read” and respond to others, but they also have a good grasp on their own emotions. They are able to identify and regulate negative emotions such as anger and sadness. They can also respond appropriately in social situations.

A child with a high level of social and emotional competence may be perceived as “easier” by parents and adults. Their personalities are likely more laid-back and cooperative and they can control their emotions better, meaning fewer melt downs.

Some children will not be able to develop this trait easily because of either a congenital condition or because trauma they have experienced has rewired their brain to be on alert. These children often demonstrate difficult behaviors and are more likely to experience child maltreatment.


Programs like the Infant Toddler Connection (ITC) through Health and Welfare are designed to aid children and families affected by these delays early to promote physical, mental and emotional development.

ITC can be accessed by calling 211. Fortunately, for most children, social and emotional competence can be learned.

The first step for parents is to role model the behavior you would like to see in your child. Children instinctively mimic their parents’ behavior, so if you want your child to learn to control their anger, you must do your best to control yours.

To further prove this point, if you struggle with anger issues and yelling, I’m willing to bet you had a parent who was the same way (so give yourself a break — undoing learned behavior is hard!).

Second, label their emotions. Say, “You must be frustrated” or “I’m sorry you are so sad.” Then suggest a positive coping strategy. “Do you want to scream into this pillow?” or “Can you take a few deep breaths with me?”

I can say from experience that teaching social and emotional competence is an ongoing process. My 2 year old still has meltdowns (which is developmentally normal), but he’s making progress.

We use the deep breathing technique so often, that he now does it without my prompting. The trick is to have patience and compassion with both yourself and your child — the results are worth it. Teaching your child to effectively communicate and interact will build positive relationships that will strengthen your family and last for the rest of their lives.

Yates, Master in Social Work, is a grants manager and planner for the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund/Prevent Child Abuse Idaho.

Public Health Works

Eastern Idaho Public Health
1250 Hollipark Drive
Idaho Falls, ID 83401

About 10 children gamboled about under the watchful eye of their parents Tuesday at Eastern Idaho Public Health’s Idaho Falls office.

The children, ranging in age from toddlers to 5-year-olds, played with brightly colored toys or snaked through oblong child-sized cylinders.

The parents act as teachers in this scenario, giving the children pro-social advice and making sure they burn off some of that relentless energy.

The two-year-old “Parents as Teachers” program emphasizes parents engaging with their children. The participants come through referral or by choice to the program. Some of the families are low income or have children with developmental issues while others come for the free play time.


Cami Walker, holding her smiling, slobbery 4-month-old boy named Ammon, enrolled in the program in April. She, her four children and her husband moved from Utah to Idaho about two years ago. Her husband works at a farm and is going to school to get a degree.

The program is ideal for parents with no ties to the area, as it puts them in contact with other parents, said Program Coordinator Holly Whitworth. Public Health employees make home visits with each family once or twice a month and show parents activities to do with their children to promote emotional, physical and social health, Whitworth said.

The “Parents as Teachers” program is one among many — often free or reduced cost — services Eastern Idaho Public Health provides.

Public Health and its 110 employees serve eight counties in all manner of ways.

The department’s staff administer a variety of services from providing health care to the needy, to immunizations, to parent-education classes, to restaurant licensing and environmental protection.

Many of the programs work in tandem to benefit eastern Idahoans who would otherwise not receive care. The Women Infants and Children program will refer young mothers to the Parents as Teachers program. The immunization clinics will recommend vaccines performed by the reproductive health program to prevent human papillomavirus.

Public Health spokeswoman Mimi Taylor said the state- and county-funded health district doesn’t try to compete with other health organizations in eastern Idaho. Taylor said Public Health’s goal is to fill in the gaps where people are not receiving care.

Parents as Teachers

Whitworth said the “Parents as Teachers“ program has stayed at its capacity of 50 enrollees since it started.

Walker said it isn’t hard to convince her 4-year-old daughter Maci to attend the monthly community events hosted at Public Health’s Hollipark Drive office.

Walker said getting the kids to roll out of bed or focus on any other activity can be difficult.

“(The program is) great bribery for my kids,” she said.

She said the kids enjoy playing and learning developmental activities, and Walker gets to learn how to implement the activities at home. She said Whitworth visits her home twice a month and shows her how to make cheap, engaging toys such as cutting up cereal boxes to make into a toy car race track.

“You know the game Mancala? Well instead of going out and buying a board, Holly came by with rock marbles and an egg carton to make the game,” Walker said.

Whitworth said there could be room for expansion, the program is currently only offered to Bonneville County residents, and hopes more parents join.

“Parenting is the hardest job anyone ever does,” Whitworth said. “We are here to help parents achieve whatever they hope for as their child develops.”

Reporter Tom Holm can be reached at 542-6746

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