Earlier this week, my daughters and I attended the inspiring Girl’s Inc. of Omaha Lunch for the Girls.
I was deeply moved by Amina, a 17-year-old Muslim who attends school in Omaha, and her heartfelt eloquence delivering her now locally famous poem Dear Terrorist.
My girls and I and the 3,500 other attendees were also delighted by Malala. The experiences she described made my 10-year-old’s eyes widen. She knows we are blessed and that the life she lives is not common for girls her age around the world, or even in parts of our own communities. She heard Malala talk about the importance of education, but also about confidence and bravery that are sometimes elusive for our pre-teen and teenage girls.
Malala told a story about how hard she worked to become “head girl” at school, and how disappointed she was when she came up short, but used the moment to encourage girls to be persistent. “In school, always be ready to take challenges. You might not win, but you’ll learn something.”
The skills she described—perseverance, confidence, bravery—contribute to resilience in our children and don’t just appear at age 10 or 15 or 18. These skills are built over time, beginning much earlier than most people realize.
Dr. Jack Shonkoff at the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard describes resilience as “a good outcome in the face of adversity.” Resilience, he says, is built over time, beginning in the first year of life, by the interactions between the person and the environment they are in. (See a 2-minute video on how our brains develop resilience.)
For all of us—parents, teachers, staff at Girls Inc. and many others—who are consistently supportive of young children in our lives, it’s amazing to think about how we are literally building these skills in our children. Thank you, Malala and Amina, for such beautiful reminders.
Senior Policy Associate
First Five Nebraska