Circle of Courage

Five Ways to Foster Resilience

As professionals dedicated to working with youth, we are entrusted with a profound responsibility and a unique privilege: to shape and influence the lives of the young people we encounter. The most critical protective factor for increasing a child’s resilience is ensuring they believe they have at least one adult who loves them irrationally and unconditionally. This can be achieved by authentically connecting with children in a way that feels natural to them.

Every interaction with a child is an opportunity to foster resilience, build trust, and nurture a sense of belonging. Through the Circle of Courage principles and a trauma-informed approach, we can ensure that every child feels loved, valued, and cared for, exactly as they are and who they hope to be.

The Circle of Courage: A Foundation for Resilience

The Circle of Courage outlines four essential components that contribute to a child’s sense of belonging and overall well-being: Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity. Integrating these principles into our daily interactions creates an environment where children can thrive, even in adversity.

1. Belonging: Cultivating Connections and Community

The cornerstone of resilience is a strong sense of belonging. Children need to feel that they are part of a community that values and accepts them. As professionals, we can foster this by:

  • Proactively Responding to Bids for Attention: Children often fulfill their need for attention through their behavior, whether it’s positive or negative. By recognizing and responding to these bids in real-time, we affirm their worth and show them that they are seen and heard. A smile, a kind word, or a moment of undivided attention can make a world of difference.
  • Creating Inclusive Environments: Ensure that every child feels welcomed and included. Celebrate diversity and make a conscious effort to understand each child’s unique background and experiences. This helps build a community where every child feels they belong.

2. Mastery: Encouraging Growth and Achievement

Children need opportunities to learn, grow, and achieve. When we help them build skills and celebrate their successes, we empower them to take on new challenges confidently.

  • Setting Achievable Goals: Work alongside children to set realistic and attainable goals. Celebrate their progress, no matter how small, and provide positive reinforcement to encourage continued effort and persistence.
  • Offering Support and Resources: Provide the tools and resources children need to succeed. This might include tutoring, mentorship, or access to extracurricular activities that align with their interests and talents.

3. Independence: Empowering Self-Agency and Choice

Children need to feel that they have control over their lives and the ability to make choices. By fostering independence, we help them develop a sense of responsibility and self-efficacy.

  • Encouraging Decision-Making: Involve children in decisions that affect them. This can be as simple as allowing them to choose their activities or as significant as involving them in developing their own support plans.
  • Respecting Individuality: Recognize and honor each child’s unique strengths, interests, and needs. Encourage them to explore their passions and support them in pursuing their own paths.

4. Generosity: Instilling a Sense of Purpose and Connection

Helping children understand the value of giving back and contributing to their community fosters a sense of purpose and connection.

  • Modeling Generosity: Show children what it means to be generous through your own actions. Volunteer together, engage in community service or random acts of kindness, and discuss the importance of helping others.
  • Creating Opportunities for Contribution: Provide children with opportunities to contribute to their community through small acts of kindness or larger community projects. This helps them see their potential to make a positive impact.

Joyful Engagement: The Heart of Trauma-Informed Care

A resilience-focused approach requires us to meet each child with empathy, patience, and joy. By embracing every interaction as an opportunity to uplift and support, we can transform the lives of the children we serve. Here are some practical ways to infuse joy and care into our daily interactions:

  • Be Present: Give children your full attention. Listen actively and show genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings.
  • Celebrate Uniqueness: Acknowledge and celebrate what makes each child unique. Encourage them to express themselves and validate their experiences.
  • Foster Positive Relationships: Build strong, trusting relationships with the children you work with. Show them that they can rely on you for support and guidance.
  • Maintain a Positive Outlook: Approach challenges with a positive attitude and a problem-solving mindset. Be the calm that helps children see obstacles as opportunities for growth and learning.
  • Authentic Connection: Make every effort to connect with each child in a manner that resonates with them. Understand their language, their interests, and their needs. Show them that your care and love are unwavering and unconditional.

By incorporating these practices into our work, we can create environments where children feel safe, valued, and empowered. Every interaction is a chance to build resilience, and by embracing this opportunity, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of the young people we serve. Let’s commit to making every moment count, nurturing resilience, and ensuring every child knows they are loved and cared for exactly as they are.

By Erica Ilcyn

About Starr Commonwealth

Starr Commonwealth is dedicated to the mission to lead with courage to create positive experiences so that all children, families, and communities flourish. We specialize in residential, community-based, educational, and professional training programs that build on the strengths of children, adults, and families in communities around the world. To schedule a training or consultation, please contact or call 800-837-5591.