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Resilience, the word that the pandemic made fashionable

2023-02-03T04:45:05.484Z


To break the perverse cycle of the generational transmission of misery, it is necessary to intervene on the structural causes of inequality and, at the same time, create opportunities for children and adolescents to build dignified futures, overcoming the situations of need in which they live


With some words it happens like with the songs of the summer: we discover them, they connect with what we are experiencing and we do not stop listening to them and repeating them over and over again.

What initially excited and moved us eventually tires us and can saturate us.

Resilience is one of those words that the pandemic has made fashionable, sometimes even perverting its meaning.

But for decades professionals who work with children and adolescents in environments marked by inequality have been talking about it.

In fact, resilience is a metaphor for the human condition that the social sciences borrowed from materials physics in the second half of the 20th century to refer to resistance and flexibility in the face of life's blows.

Beyond the good use or abuse of the word resilience, the reality of which that word speaks to us is still there, stubborn and stark.

Life is not always beautiful.

It is something that, sooner or later, most of us are discovering.

But it is that some discover it too soon.

Child poverty is one of the most bitter fruits of inequality in this poorly distributed world.

And, in Spain, the known data is embarrassing.

That one in three children, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), lives in a situation of risk of poverty or exclusion is a figure that we should not get used to.

Against the generational transmission of poverty

Breaking the perverse cycle of the generational transmission of poverty requires a double type of action: intervening on the structural causes of inequality and, at the same time, generating opportunities for children and adolescents to build dignified futures, overcoming situations of poverty in the who live.

And it is precisely there where we place the socio-educational action for the development of resilience.

Children are not mini people or adult projects.

They are subject to rights

Thanks to research on resilience, we now know that facing adversity and moving forward, despite (or even thanks to) it, is not something that depends on luck, genes or destiny.

We can identify the factors that develop it and we know that these, which we call protective factors, can be enhanced with appropriate social and educational actions.

Also, we know that free time and sports are privileged scenarios for their development.

What are the ingredients of that "magic potion" that allows us to face up to life's difficulties or even take advantage of them to be better?

And how do educational leisure, in general, and sport, in particular, facilitate these processes?

Three protective factors for resilience

The effect of sports, games or physical activity on self-esteem and social skills is supported by numerous investigations.

Self-esteem and social skills are two of the most cited protective factors also in studies on resilience.

Stefan Vaniestendael, one of the international leaders in this field, adds at least three others.

A group of children play with rackets and balls at the Poble-sec Socio-educational Center (Barcelona), which offers free tennis classes to children who usually do not have access to this sport.

Pere Tarre Foundation

The first of these is social support.

It has to do with human relationships, with mutual help, with feeling accepted and loved.

This is essential to overcome adversity.

Sports activities can be spaces that generate friendship, improve neighborhood relations or a sense of belonging.

I am not thinking only of the children and their sports practice, but also of the families who are in training, on outings or in tournaments.

And also, in the consciousness of a club, a neighborhood, a shared project, in all those types of scenarios in which the links between people end up weaving the protective social network that we are talking about when we refer to social support.

It is not surprising that, in a recent study on loneliness (another of those disconcerting ills of our hyperconnected society), the lack of physical or sports activity appears as one of the main determinants of unwanted loneliness among young people.

Child poverty is one of the most bitter fruits of inequality in this poorly distributed world

Another of the resilience factors whose development sports experiences can contribute to is the ability to make sense of what has been lived.

Setting goals, sharing projects, defining the steps to follow or justifying efforts are processes present in sports practice that teach us to answer questions about the meaning of what we do in life and about the value of life itself.

And that's something central to resilience.

It is important, yes, the accompaniment of sensible adults who help to discover that the most important engine of life is not outside (in titles, success or social approval) but inside, in the pleasure of learning, of improving , to overcome, in what in social sciences we call achievement motivation.

And the third protective factor that I was referring to is a sense of humor.

Probably, its key role in the face of adversity has surprised some investigator.

But it appears systematically in studies on resilience.

The sense of humor tells us about the need to accept fragility as part of our human condition and to laugh a little at ourselves.

It is a sign of intelligence, of the lucidity that allows us to distinguish what is fundamental (few things are) and what is accessory.

What does sport have that can feed this protective factor?

The joy of the celebrations and, above all, the enormous number of blows, failures and defeats that, many times, sports practice entails.

Both (the party and the pain) equalize and humanize us and help to build a perspective on ourselves and on the human condition that also protects us from the losses and defeats with capital letters that life brings us, especially if that life is marked due to inequality of opportunity.

The educational use of sport in childhood and adolescence can have that transformative power

Let the children have a good time

Certainly not all uses of sport contribute to improving the world.

However, its educational use in childhood and adolescence can have that transformative power.

Sports activity responds to the need to move, to play, to have fun.

Only that (that the children have a good time) already more than justifies it.

But, in addition, it can be a powerful ally in building resilience and a space to experience ownership over their lives.

This connects with one of the dimensions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child that is most difficult for us to finish developing: their right to participate, their condition as active members of the society in which they live.

Children are not mini people or adult projects.

They are subjects of rights.

Sport can help them develop that sense of self-management inherent to being a citizen.

It is probably something essential to grow with the possibility of breaking the self-reproducing cycle of poverty.

And, by the way, perhaps it will help us adults to make this fast-paced and unequal world that is leaving us a little more habitable.

Paco López

is a professor at the Pere Tarrés-URL Faculty of Social Education and Social Work.

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Source: elparis

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