Resilience is the ability to overcome difficulties and return to a homeostatic state, i.e. return to a state of balance, in the face of adversities – and it can be developed from childhood. In our adult life, resilience is important to overcome life’s obstacles in a clever and kind way to yourself.
The story Fatima, from Truth and Tales, tells the life of Fatima, the main character who goes through many hurdles but always picks herself up and dusts herself off to continue on her path. The story doesn’t talk about resilience in itself, but it’s one of Fatima’s predominant traits, showing how she handles hard times, tragedies and frustrations while persisting to pursue her goals at the same time.
Let’s understand more about resilience? We have based our article on several materials from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.
Resilience can be defined as “a good outcome in the face of adversity”. Linda C. Mayes is a professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology in the Yale School of Medicine. Linda defines resilience as the “ability or set of capacities for positive adaptation, allowing you to keep in balance”.
We are all born with the ability to be resilient, but since it’s a skill, it needs to be developed. Resilience is built over time just like our brain’s architecture is formed. It’s an individual skill, but it requires interaction between people and the child and the overall community. Resilience needs several factors in order to be developed: responsive relationships, safe community, qualified parents or legal guardians, healthy diets, etc.
To understand the development of resilience in a more precise way, let’s imagine a seesaw whose base, which is usually fixed in the center, can now move and slide to the left or to the right. On one side of the seesaw, there are protective experiences and skills to face challenges (which help us overcome periods of stress); on the other side, there are adversities.
Resilience is evident when the child’s health and development tend to yield positive outcomes, even when a load of factors is piled on top of the adversities side of the seesaw. Over time, the cumulative positive impacts of our life experiences and our ability to face challenges are able to move the position of the seesaw’s base, which starts to slide closer to the adversity side, making it easier to reach positive outcomes.
The most common factor for kids to develop resilience is by having at least one stable and committed relationship with their parents, caregivers or other adults. These relationships provide the base, protection and everything that is necessary to develop the responsive ability according to the moment’s need. This alleviates the kids’ halt in development.
They also build key abilities – such as to plan, monitor and regulate behaviors – which allow children to respond adaptively to adversities and, still, prosper. This combination of supportive relationships, the development of adaptive skills and positive experiences are the foundations of resilience.
Kids who handle difficulties well are usually resilient to adversity and have strong relationships with important adults in their family and in the community where they live. Resilience is the outcome of a combination of protection factors. Alone, not even individual traits or social environments can guarantee positive outcomes for children who go through long periods of toxic stress. It’s the interaction between biology and the environment that builds the kids’ ability to handle adversity and overcome threats and guides them towards a healthy development.
The abilities related to resilience can be strengthened at any age. The brain and other biological systems are more adaptable in the beginning of life. While its development establishes the bases for a wide range of resilient behaviors, it’s never too late to build resilience.
Activities that promote health and are age appropriate can significantly improve the chances of recovery of an individual whose experiences are stress-inducing.
For example, regular physical exercise, stress-reducing practices, and activities that actively build executive functioning and self-regulating skills improve both children and adults’ ability to handle, adapt to, and even prevent the adversities that can happen throughout life.
Adults who strengthen these skills in themselves may even serve as role models and show healthy behaviors in a more effective way to their kids, thus improving the next generation’s resilience.
In the face of the mishaps that occurred throughout Fatima’s life – which is a character from one of the Truth and Tales’ stories – many people can interpret that she is a poor thing persecuted by bad luck and a victim of so many tragedies. However, Fatima demonstrates a lot of power and wisdom by facing and overcoming these obstacles. Her ability to bounce back from all the challenges, despite the pain, exhaustion and adversity, is the result of resilience.
Stories that are filled with challenges and frustrations are important for kids to have contact with adversity without living them in their own skin. This helps to prepare them to face challenging situations in the context of their own lives.
Text: Luisa Scherer
Translation: Mariana Gruber
The word empathy has gained a lot of popularity in the last few years and, because of this, you must have heard of this expression. However, despite its new-found popularity, have you ever wondered what it means?
Have you ever questioned how is it possible to develop empathy and from which age does it start to manifest?
We can feel empathy in several situations from an early age. When we come across completely different realities from ours, such as when we see someone being insulted by someone else or going through a situation that causes someone some kind of discomfort, we feel empathy. You can do this exercise and try to remember situations that made you feel empathy.
According to the University of Cambridge’s dictionary definition of empathy, it is “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation”.
The Greater Good magazine, from the Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) from Berkeley, published an article in which it pointed out that “emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling”.
Feeling empathy is an emotional and cognitive experience. The emotional components of empathy are the first to emerge in the human being. Babies immediately start to reflect on the emotional states and the facial expressions of the people around them. Thanks to mirror neurons, babies as young as 18 hours usually show some response capacity regarding other babies in danger. We don’t teach babies how to do that; they are born programmed to map other people’s experiences onto their own brains and bodies.
According to Lawrence Kutner, North-American child psychologist and author of six books, kids as young as 2 years old might see their mothers crying, for example, and move to offer her what they have in hand, such as a toy or food. However, in the face of this action, it isn’t clear whether the 2-year-old kid recognizes their mother’s feeling as she cries.
The author writes, “By the time a child is about 4 years old, he begins to associate his emotions with the feelings of others. While one child says he has a stomachache, some 4-year-olds may come over and comfort him. Others, much to the bewilderment and horror of parents and teachers, will walk over to the child and punch him in the stomach.”
“Yet in each case the healthy child is demonstrating his empathy for the one who is ill. The aggressive child does not know what to do with the skill he’s been developing. The other child’s pain makes him feel uncomfortable. Instead of running away or rubbing his own stomach, as he might have done a year earlier, he feels frustrated and lashes out.”
1. “Empathize with your child and model empathy for others.”
Children learn empathy both from watching us and from experiencing our empathy for them. When we empathize with our children they develop trusting, secure attachments with us.
Those attachments are key to their wanting to adopt our values and to model our behavior, and therefore to building their empathy for others.”
2. “Provide opportunities for children to practice empathy.“
Children are born with the capacity for empathy, but it needs to be nurtured throughout their lives. Learning empathy is in certain respects like learning a language or a sport. It requires practice and guidance.
Regularly considering other people’s perspectives and circumstances helps make empathy a natural reflex and, through trial and error, helps children get better at tuning into others’ feelings and perspectives.”
3. “Expand your child’s circle of concern.”
As parents and caretakers, it’s not only important that we model appreciation for many types of people. It’s important that we guide children in understanding and caring for many kinds of people who are different from them and who may be facing challenges very different from their own challenges.”
4. “Help children develop self-control and manage feelings effectively.” Often when children don’t express empathy it’s not because they don’t have it. It’s because some feeling or image is blocking their empathy. Often the ability to care for others is overwhelmed, for example, by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings.
Helping children manage these negative feelings as well as stereotypes and prejudices about others is often what “releases” their empathy.”
He reached these definitions based on research done by the Harvard Medical School. These studies also present the existence of a social brain, which can be explained as parts of the brains that interact in order for us to engage with one another.
The psychologist explains that the social brain isn’t made of one small part of the human brain, since varied parts of the brain interact to perform the functions involved in social coexistence. The term “social brain” encompasses several active parts that cover the entire human brain. These active parts are implied in the actions we execute when we interact with other people.
According to the researcher and author, these three types of empathy directly related to the social brain are paramount for communication in different types of environments, whether that’s at work, at home or in school. “When two people are in such a state, giving each other their full attention, it creates a feeling of well-being and makes space so that exchanges can happen, since they’re feeling safe and supported,” he states.
The author reiterates that our ability to truly connect with people, regardless of the situation, is extremely important for us to understand what others are telling us and what they feel. In order to improve this connection you need to know how to listen to others and ask questions.
Daniel Goleman states: “I literally feel your pain. My brain patterns match up with yours when I listen to you tell a gripping story.”
To reach this conclusion, the doctor created a program that taught other doctors how to concentrate and breathe deeply through the diaphragm in order to observe interactions. “Suspending your own involvement to observe what is happening allows you to interact with “conscious awareness”, without being completely reactive”, affirmed Dr. Riess.
She states in the research that if a doctor notices she is feeling annoyed, for example, it may be a sign that the patient is also feeling disturbed.
Michelle Borba, an educator, parenting child expert and author of more than 20 books, in an interview to Revista Crescer explained that “the last scientific discoveries have shown that the ability to be empathetic positively affects healthy and finances, brings happiness and contributes to the satisfaction that relationships offer, in addition to increasing the ability to overcome adversities in the future. Empathy also prepares kids to live in a globalized world and provides them with a boost to do better career-wise.”
In her book Unselfie, Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, the author dedicates an entire chapter to the importance of kids being in contact with literature.
According to her, “Books have the power to transport kids to other worlds and transform their hearts. Books can be portals to understanding distinct universes and points of view, helping our kids to be more open to differences and to cultivate new perspectives. We always feel what the characters feel. It’s like walking in their skins – emotionally, at least – identifying ourselves with their discomforts and feeling their pains. (…) That is why we need to find time for kids to read and put them in contact with books.”
By reading or listening to stories, kids can broaden their perceptions regarding their own lives and, therefore, experience empathy. Our app Truth and Tales also shares this vision since it encourages kids and adults to perceive themselves more and more. By doing so better, we can also see others more easily and, that way, be more empathetic.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Empathy is popular right now and we can see it being mentioned in several lectures of the most varied genres. People claim it’s the “skill of the future”. Despite many talking about empathy, however, in practice, most still confuse it with sympathy.
As it was said in the article above, we feel empathy when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes – when we are able to see the situation from someone else’s perspective. It’s the ability to experience the same feelings as others.
Sympathy, on the other hand, isn’t a shared experience. Sympathy concerns our own feelings from our own judgment of a situation. To feel sympathy is to express that, despite not knowing what the other person is going through, you feel for them.
For empathy to occur, a connection between two people is indispensable, whether they know each other or not. In a world where online connection is getting easier and easier, physical ones are getting lost. We advise, therefore, that you spend some quality time with your kids away from screens and the internet.
Truth and Tales, our original app, develops empathy through interactive kids stories. This is done through the customization of the main characters, which allows kids to choose the character’s skin, eye and hair color, the hairstyle, the clothes, the accessories, etc.
Kids could come up with the craziest combinations, but they usually put together characters whose physical traits are similar to themselves. That makes it easier for kids to put themselves in the character’s shoes, thus developing empathy.
The term cognitive development is frequently used by therapists, doctors and educators. We have also used those two words together in a lot of content published here in our blog. But do you know what it means?
In an interview from December 2019 for the Maria Cecília Souto Vidigal Foundation — which has worked for the cause of early childhood and the first stages of child development since 2007 — doctor Drauzio Varella explained a little about cognitive development.
“We are born with our entire neurological equipment set up, but not ready: our brain is a miniature of the adult brain, i.e. morphologically speaking, the shape is well-established. However, what allows for the development of cognitive activities isn’t brain shape but the neurons. It is the links between them, because it is through them that information is communicated, through these established connections. If you stimulate these connections with games, made-up stories and by reading to children, they will start to develop their cognitive ability based on the stimuli of synapse formation, which is the interaction between neurons,” he explained.
In order to explain these connections that happen in our brains a little further, we will present three core concepts of early childhood development, developed by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child from Harvard University.
These three concepts show how the advancement of neuroscience, molecular biology and genomics offers a much more thorough understanding of how our first experiences are built in our bodies and brains, for better or worse.
The experiences lived by children during their first years of life have a lifelong impact on their brain architecture and development. Genes represent the diagram to be performed, but experiences shape the process that will define whether the brain will build a strong or weak foundation for learning, behavior and health throughout their lives.
During this important stage of development, billions of brain cells called neurons send electrical signals that communicate among themselves. These connections build the circuits that establish the brain’s basic architecture. Circuits and connections are multiplied quickly and are strengthened by their frequent use.
Our experiences and the environment we live in determine which circuits and connections will be used more. The most frequently used connections get stronger and become permanent, whereas rarely used connections disappear through a normal process called pruning. Simple circuits are built first, forming the foundation upon which more complex ones will be built later.
It is through this process that neurons build circuits and connections for emotions, motor skills, behavior control, logic, language and memory. All of this happens during the early stages of development.
With repeated use, the circuits become more efficient and connect to other areas of the brain more quickly. Despite originating from specific areas of the brain, the circuits are interconnected and there cannot be one type of skill without others that complement it. It is similar to building a house, everything is connected, and whichever comes first builds the foundation for what will come later.
A solid architecture of the brain is shaped through the serve and return interaction between the child and the adult. In this game of development, the neurons create new connections in the brain as the child instinctively makes face expressions, sounds, and gestures, and the adult reacts in a very significant way and with a focus on the child’s action.
This starts quite early in life, when babies try to express themselves and the adults interact by calling the babies’ attention to their faces or hands. This interaction shapes the foundations of the brain circuitry upon which all future development will take place.
The serve and return interaction helps to create connections by means of the neurons from all brain areas, establishing the emotional and cognitive skills that children need to live. For example: language and literacy skills are formed when a baby sees an object and the adult utters its name. This builds connections inside the baby’s brain between the specific sounds and their corresponding objects.
Later, adults show to kids that such objects and sounds can also be represented by marks on a page. With the adults’ constant support, children learn to decipher the writing and, then, to write themselves. Each stage is built from the previous one.
Ensuring children’s caregivers are involved in the serve and return interaction from their first few months is to promote the construction of a solid foundation in the brain for learning, behavior and health — for the rest of their lives.
Learning to deal with stress is an important part of healthy development. When we experience stress, our response system is activated, the body and brain become alert, adrenaline takes over and heart rate increases, as well as the stress hormone levels.
Stress is relieved when children get the nurturing support they need from an adult. Their bodies react to the adult’s response and slow down, returning to homeostasis in no time. In severe situations, such as continuous abuse and negligence or when there is no nurturing adult to soften the impacts of stress, the response to stress remains activated. Even when there is no apparent physical damage, the prolonged lack of care and attention on the part of the adults is able to activate the stress response system.
The constant stress response activation overwhelms the developing systems. As a result, there are serious long term consequences for the children, and this process is known as toxic stress. Over time it results in a stress response system that is permanently on alert.
Science shows that the prolonged activation of stress hormones during early childhood can reduce the number of neuron connections in these important regions of the brain in a period that children should be developing new connections. Toxic stress can be avoided if we ensure that children grow up and develop in warm, reliable and stimulating environments.
When questioned about early childhood development and lifelong health on The Brain Architects Podcast by Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, the center director, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, explains that one of the new science’s most important messages compels us to connect the brain to the rest of the body. “Because what happens early on is not only important for learning and social and emotional development and school achievement, but it’s an important influence on your physical and mental health for the rest of your life. .”
Jack also says that there are no perfect brains or immunological systems. “How we grow up, how we learn, what our health is like is related to the interaction between how we are individually wired to begin with and what our life experiences are about. And the important part of our life experiences, the most important, is the environment of relationships that we grow up in. And then also of importance is the physical environment in which we grow up. How safe is it? How protected or exposed are we to toxic substances in the environment, lead, mercury? How much space do we have to move around? So all of these things together, interacting with how everybody is unique from a genetic point of view results in a wide, wide range of normal development.”
In order to understand how pedagogy explains cognitive development, we talked to Carol Mota, who is an educator, clinical psychopedagogue, and author of the book “Autism in Children’s Education: an Outlook on Social Interaction and School Inclusion” (loosely translated). She explained that play is the best way to stimulate this development.
“As children play, they are continuously learning. When they play by exploring a specific toy that involves spatial or sensory matters, for instance, their logical thinking and memory are stimulated,” she said.
“While playing amongst themselves, they are also learning a way to engage with others, which in turn expands their cognitive processes. We need to think that, even though cognitive processes exist, they don’t expand outside a cultural context of social interaction. It is by interacting with others, with an interactive exchange between pairs, between children and adults, that kids take ownership of new skills,” explained the educator.
Carol highlighted that, more than games that stimulate logical reasoning, what is key and most important is the social interaction that happens during these moments.
“Social interaction and interactive exchange: that is how we are going to approach these matters in a more significant way. As we interact, communicate and talk to each other, we need to reflect about our behavior, we need to think about which answer to give to specific questions. When we reflect and formulate questions, our cognitive processes are active and it is in this dialogue between me and the other person that these processes expand, and that cognitive development starts to emerge.”
“It is through play that children will learn how to use their bodies, from the contact with different languages that may involve music, visual arts, etc. Therefore, children will get to know others and the world through several different perspectives, which helps to develop cognitive skills,” said the psychopedagogue.
Written by Débora Nazário
Translated by Mariana Gruber
Carol is a physical therapist and 6-year-old Pedro and 2-year-old Clara’s mother. She is in lockdown with her family, without being allowed to leave her apartment (literally!) since her building has been closed by the Civil Defense, and she has had to get creative in order to make her children practise physical activity.
Children are a source of energy and life! It is in their nature to be in motion and in creativity. To stimulate and support this nature can be a huge incentive to the promotion and development of health in children and teenagers.
The practice of physical activities during childhood and teenage years helps to readjust the energy balance and to prevent obesity, improves blood circulation and the oxygenation of the body and the brain, boosts the metabolism, reinforces the immune system, improves cognition, self-esteem and the feeling of well-being.
Physical activity develops muscle strength, flexibility and endurance, improves motor coordination, stimulates bone metabolism, increases breathing and heart capacity, and lifts the mood, in both the short and long term.
Being physically active everyday is important for the promotion of integral health in children and teenagers, and it is fundamental that activities are enjoyable and adequate for the individual state of growth of each child and teenager.
According to the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, physical activity can be stimulated in children’s lives from their first year of life. Rolling over, crawling, walking, running, jumping and other types of exercise bring numerous health benefits.
In times of technological advances and wide availability of virtual games, tablets and videogames, the practice of physical activity can fall by the wayside. Children usually mirror and are inspired by the actions and life habits of their parents or the adults surrounding them and, because of that, we need to be careful with what we want to pass on to our children and teenagers.
Following a healthy routine with the incentive of good eating habits, meditation and physical exercise at home so the little ones keep being active is very important to promote healthy growth and development.
But what should be done, and how should it be done, when there are strenuous work hours, so little time and a thousand things to handle? And furthermore: what about when you are in lockdown, without being able to leave the house, and with two children in an apartment?
It’s okay, mom and dad, we are in this together! There are days in which we look like a family of athletes, but there are days in which everything becomes a mess! Relax, it’s one day at a time until it turns into a pleasant routine.
We can create a favourable and attractive environment to the practice of physical activities with children. Anything goes! You can play around, dance, play games, throw a party, put on music – the important thing is to let them do the activity freely and at ease.
Determining a time of the day to carry out the physical activity is quite interesting and it works. For instance, at 10 o’clock in the morning we gathered in the living room and called out for the exercise hour. We put on a nice song that the children like and watched how they reacted. And then we proposed a series of exercises to them and we all executed them.
These workouts usually last from 10 to 15 minutes, and involve jumping jacks, squats and push-ups. Our children more often than not mimic us doing these exercises and gradually get in the mood! From then on, we let their imagination and creativity run freely! Sometimes it turns into a mess, at others we manage to do it and create super fun exercises!
It is important to guide them while also being attentive to the flow, to what the children want to tell and show us! They will often have much cooler and fun ideas and inventions than the ones we want to propose to them!
There are a lot of games we can create in form of exercise! If we make room for physical activity in our routines and bring our children with us, what is supposed to be an important benefit to our health also becomes a moment of love, joyfulness and bonding!
Share the activities you do at home with us on instagram! Just tag @truthandtales.app
The father figure is changing and it is no longer seen as the family provider. Domestic chores are increasingly being shared equally and so are the parents’ responsibilities. Nowadays, the mother is not the only one responsible for the raising and rearing of a child. The father figure is just as important as the mother, and a good relationship between the child and the father figure has countless positive benefits to kids’ lives.
The mother is more present in the first few years of a child’s life — after all, she is the one who breastfeeds. When they are babies, kids see themselves and their mothers as one thing, and overtime they start to perceive there is a separation between them. The father is part of this process. This figure shows the world to the child and motivates them to explore it, even if unconsciously.
An article published in the Brazilian Journal of Psychopedagogy explains the importance of this parent figure. “The role of the father in child development and the interaction between father and child is one of the decisive factors to social and cognitive development, facilitating the child’s learning ability and integration into the community.” The article also explains that the connection between father and child is reflected later on in their adult lives, in their psycho-affective constructions, and by having an impact on their social relationships.
A good relationship between the child and this figure also affects the way kids act when they come across challenges, and they tend to be less aggressive.
Psychologist Márcia Orsi explained in an interview to Pais&Filhos magazine that “research has shown that the father figure makes the entrance into social relations safer for the child.” This parent figure is indispensable to establish boundaries, an important factor of the child’s character-building process.
Kids need quality attention from their fathers or father figures. Girls and boys need love, care, and affection. That is why having alone-time with them is incredibly healthy for the child. Reading stories, visiting parks, going to the movies, teaching how to ride a bike, etc., are activities that create memories together and help children see themselves in the world.
Written by Luisa Scherer
Translated by Mariana Gruber