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Raising Resilient Children by Caty Laignel

During Hurricane Sandy, our school lost eleven trees, a van, and a well-loved tree house built by the Middle School. Given that no one in our school community sustained injuries, we felt extremely grateful as we put the school back in shape over the next week. On our first day back in session, the children and teachers gathered together for a story that highlighted the importance of cherishing our time on earth, the need for change in the cycle of life, and the impermanent nature of all things. Everyone then headed outside to help clear the play areas and grounds. Wishing to get their play spaces in order to return to favorite games and activities, the children took on the clearing of brush with great gusto and camaraderie. The positive and collaborative energy with which the students approached this task was inspiring.

When difficult situations arise in children’s lives, participating in making it better gives children a sense of purpose and safety. Dramatic and unforeseen changes can, and will, occur in the course of our lives. The greatest gift we can offer our kids is not to pour all our energy into protecting them from every hardship that might occur, but to clearly model resilience and include them in the actions that are needed when something does happen. Being active allows us to make an impact in the world around us. That gesture, however small, brings us into the present free of worry.

Circumstances over which we have no control are frightening and it is hard to make sense of the level of loss and hardship that many suffered. But we can contribute to the recovery and encourage our children’s participation in these events. By engaging children in activities such as putting together relief boxes with food and supplies for friends or strangers, children have a tangible experience of how generosity can illuminate dark times. We may not have the power to stop something from happening but we do have control over our responses.

Natural disasters can significantly alter our routines as well as put the important things in life back into perspective. Many find that such events lead to more quality family time. Inspiring our children to embrace and participate in the circumstances of each day helps them to face life with less fear and to trust their own ability to take positive action.

Caty Laignel is the director of the Blue Rock School, located at110 Demarest Mill Rd. in West Nyack. She can be reached at 627-0234 or by visiting

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