Annual Physicals: A Great Time to Talk Resilience

Every year, thousands of children visit medial offices for an annual physical. It is generally a time to ask questions about your child’s development, discuss anticipated phases he or she will go through in the coming year, have sports physical forms signed, update immunizations, and strategize on how to manage chronic health conditions.

It’s also a great opportunity to talk about resilience. You may have noticed that you or your child have been asked to fill out a questionnaire or two, asking about your young child’s development, your teen’s overall mental health and health behaviors (wearing a seatbelt, use of social media), or whether you or your adolescent are experiencing depression symptoms. (Typically providers want to know about post-partum depression within the first 6 months after delivery, but it’s plausible adolescence is taking a toll on you too!)

The medical profession takes prevention seriously and is taking proactive steps to catch developmental delays, including autism, postpartum and adolescent depression, and obesity by regularly screening for these problems. Doing so gives the provider objective information (the results from screening) and develop a plan of action with you and your child. It’s a perfect opportunity for your family to get on a positive path for healthy living.

In partnership with the American Academy of Pediatricians, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, an adolescent medicine physician, wrote A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings. He discusses what he termed the 7 “C”s of resilience:

  • Competence
  • Confidence
  • Connection
  • Character
  • Contribution
  • Coping
  • Control

These areas are enormously important in thinking about children’s emotional, behavioral, social, academic, and physical health. I’ve included the link to the Healthy Children website that describes the 7 “C”s in more detail.

What else can be done to promote resilience during a routine physical? Here are some ideas:

For Providers

  1. Ask patients questions strategically targeting the 7 “C”s. Questions might include:
    • What activities are you in involved in that make you feel good about yourself?
    • Do you have at least one adult whom you trust and can talk to?
    • What do you do to give to others?
    • What are you particularly good at and enjoy?
    • How are you coping with stress?
  2. Create a brief, simple checklist for patients to fill out that can guide a discussion during the physical. In addition to gathering information, you are heightening patient awareness that this topic is important.
  3. Create a handout that provides contact information for community resources, tips for building resilience, or both.
  4. Get involved in your professional organization to learn more about resilience-promoting strategies. The American Academy of Pediatrics has several articles on this topic on their website. The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners has a special interest group in mental health.

 

For Parents

  1. Talk to the medical provider about connecting to resources in the community that work hard to build children’s resilience: Boys and Girls Clubs, religious organizations, adults who are positively and appropriately modeling ethical behavior, drug and alcohol prevention programs, and counselors.
  2. Ask how you can model resilience.
  3. Ask if there are handouts available or tip sheets to help you get started.
  4. Think about how you would like to grow your own resilience skills and take a step or two. You can use the 7 “C”s to guide you.

My dream is that talking about resilience will become a part of regular medical visits. Emotional, behavioral, social, academic, and physical health are interconnected. Perhaps one day, our system of care will fully support a seamless integration of screening, education, and intervention services that promote whole-person resilience.

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