Cultivate Trust & Build Resilience

A fictional story.

[Promote hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity]

Jeannine Marie Lenehan


From the Author It is commonly understood that infancy through adolescence is an optimal time in our human development for not only preventing illness, but also for promoting our social and emotional health. When observed from a developmental perspective, parents often recognize that there are many agents and resources including family, school, community, and health care that can influence a child’s social and emotional health, but when asked many parents and caregivers seem unsure of what their child’s social and emotional stages are or the interrelation that exists between their child’s psychological and social health. This series on The Resilient Child will explore the psychological and social development of children from infancy through adolescence. Through Abija and her family, we will discover why nurturing each virtue including hope, will, purpose, competence, and fidelity is a fundamental building block that has a place in the schedule of our children’s social and emotional development.

Abija hides under the shade of the grape vines away from the mid-summer heat, gently harvesting the leaves so they won’t tear. Picking grape leaves is a culturally rich tradition her grandmother shared with her mother and one that has been passed down to Abija. The leaves that hang from the vines have offered welcomed shade for her since she was a little girl. Now as a teenager, she has begun to appreciate the shade and food they provide her family.

When her grandparents first arrived in the U.S. they planted this grapevine in their backyard, a property that has been left to Abija’s parents. What began as the tender, willowy grape vine, planted decades before, has grown into a tall canopy of curling branches and resilient stems that wind around trees for support and produce healthy leaves each summer.

In the kitchen Abija and her mother separate the leaves, reserving some to stuff with lamb and rice for dinner and others for blanching and freezing to preserve for the winter. Their time together is more than a lesson in cooking; it is a wonderful opportunity for parent and child to share stories of their day, memories of their past, and plans for their future.

Abija is just 15 years old and has begun to observe some of the decisions older students at her school have made. She tells her mother about a senior, Victoria, who is postponing college to volunteer for an organization in another country. The idea of travel sounds exciting to Abija and she privately considers it for herself, but she has never been far from home for any length of time and these thoughts provoke some anxious behavior in her as she repeatedly taps her foot. Her mother carefully observes Abija’s body language and tone. She recognizes that Abija is in the midst of her adolescence and pondering her future roles in the adult world. To help ease some of her anxiety, Abija’s mother continues to cook with her daughter and briefly talks about some of the rich experiences and opportunities Victoria may have. Her mother seamlessly transitions from their conversation and begins to sing their favorite song; one that they have shared since Abija was an infant. It’s a happy song about a young girl who dances through the mint leaves, infusing the fresh scent of mint in the air with her feet. As they sing, she smiles and looks to her daughter, gently easing her daughter’s anxious feelings. She knows Abija will have her own ideas for her future and that her plans may change several times during adolescence, until she begins to feel more secure with her sense of self.

Abija responds well to those wonderful verbal and non-verbal practices her mother demonstrates, like a supportive smile and words that inspire. Her mother understands the positive and negative impacts that verbal and non-verbal communication can have on a child’s social and emotional health and is thoughtful with the language and tone she uses to communicate with Abija. This fosters Abija’s faith in her current and future self. Also, by encouraging Abija to explore healthy environments outside their home she is nurturing her daughter’s sense of competence while simultaneously cultivating a trusted relationship between parent and child. She recognizes that Abija’s healthy sense of trust is a virtue that will promote her daughter’s sense of hope, reliability, truth, and strength and her ability to recognize it in others.

Abija’s mother is not a child development expert, but has nurtured her curiosity of the field through a series of recommended books, speaking with experts, and by comparing and contrasting those lessons against her own childhood experiences. She knows Abija, like her peers, will face periods of uncertainty about herself and the world around her.

In addition to trust, both of Abija’s parents have fostered other virtues in their daughter including a healthy sense of will, purpose, competence, and fidelity. In sequence, they understand these healthy attitudes can promote Abija’s healthy self-identity and social identity as she explores her surroundings and considers her current and future relationships.


Jeannine Marie Lenehan
Child Development Specialist & Researcher
Founder and Principal


  • 1. Infancy through adolescence is an optimal time in our human development for promoting a child’s social and emotional health.
  • 2. Cultivating trust between parent/caregiver and child is the first in a series of fundamental social and emotional building blocks, and will help children to trust in themselves and the world around them.
  • 3. Providing uninterrupted time and a relaxing activity with your child is a wonderful opportunity for relationship building.
  • 4. Be mindful that the prosocial language you use with your child also reflects in your tone, body language, and subsequent actions.


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