March 12th, 2011
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musclesMy husband and I didn’t know much about our older daughter when we adopted her ten years ago.  The first record was when she was picked up from a police station on Aug. 31, 1999 and taken to an orphanage. On September 1st, she was admitted to the hospital with “failure to thrive” and came back to stay at the orphanage six weeks later.  The videos and notes from the individuals working with her after she left the hospital all suggested she was a happy, carefree little girl.  Very resilient, they suggested.  She bounced back from her illness and from all of the events that led her to the orphanage.

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Resilience:  It’s a word we often hear associated with older adoptees.   These children have all had a life trauma and adoptive parents usually are left wondering,  how resilient is this child?  Can this child recover from her past adversities?

Over the years I have learned more about my daughter’s past, and like the individuals in the orphanage who cared for her, I know for certain that she is indeed resilient!  (Although I admit to having some concern during those junior high years.)

So when those times became difficult during the early adolescent years I often reminded my girl of how much she has already been through and how I knew that she could handle junior high. Somehow I knew that those previous traumas were going to help her maneuver through the difficult terrain of thirteen-year-old girls.  And I told her that repeatedly.  If she could survive losing her first mother, living in an orphanage, moving to a new country and learning a new language, she could certainly handle anything a mean girl could dish out.

Recently I learned that my instincts were correct: adversity does make a person resilient.  At least that is what a new study reported in the New York Times suggested.  Writer Benedict Carey writes (1-6-11) traumas make people stronger.  Researchers speculate that  adversity may provide a road map for individuals–”The number of life blows a person has taken may affect his or her mental toughness more than any other.”

What is that old saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”?

Maybe that is a perspective we should have with the older children who come to into our homes and lives.

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