How to Be a Comeback Kid

Last Editorial Review: 1/30/2005

WebMD Feature

June 26, 2000 -- What does it take to bounce back from adversity?

Ask some of the kids who made it -- including President Bill Clinton, rock singer Tina Turner, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey -- and they'll tell you they had three points in their favor:

  • Support from others
  • A belief in their own talents and abilities
  • Good people skills and a knack for problem-solving

With that formula, you can conquer almost anything, says Edith Grotberg, PhD, a senior research scientist at the Civitan International Research Center at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and author of Tapping Your Inner Strength: How to Find the Resilience to Deal With Anything.

Not everyone is born with the qualities that foster resilience. But anyone can learn them. Let's say your 13-year-old son was injured in a soccer game and will need an operation on his back this summer. The whole family will have to pitch in while he recovers. Here are seven practical questions that Grotberg says will help your entire family become more resilient:

1. What's going to happen?

Hold a family meeting and, together, draw up a list of questions: How long is the average recovery? What will your son be able to do afterward? What kind of care and supervision will he need? Find other people who have faced the same adversity and ask for advice.

2. Who will be affected?

Discuss how each family member's schedule is about to change: Who will help with the errands and the food shopping or entertain him the first few days? Who will monitor his medication? Will you have to cancel your vacation at the beach?

3. What are the obstacles that need to be overcome?

As medical expenses increase, you may have to cut back on the family budget. Your other children may need to spend less time with their friends.

4. Who needs to know what?

You may have to research different forms of physical therapy to find the one your son is most likely to stick with. Your oldest child may have to learn how to prepare the evening meals. And your bedridden patient may need to take up a new hobby to keep him occupied.

5. Who can help?

Could your friends and neighbors contribute some lasagna or a casserole? Does your health insurance allow for a visiting nurse? Can grandparents help with the driving and the extra errands?

6. What are the inner strengths you will need to draw on in the weeks ahead?

You'll need patience and compassion for the person who is sick and a belief that you can solve new problems as they come up.

7. What special skills must your family develop?

You'll need medical savvy, from monitoring medications to assisting with physical therapy. You'll need good communication -- the ability to talk through your frustrations and listen, sympathetically, to each other. And you'll need to be good at problem-solving -- brainstorming to come up with workable solutions.

Valerie Andrews has written for Intuition, HealthScout, and many other publications. She lives in Greenbrae, Calif.

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