Four teenagers -- all children of Army Soldiers -- recently completed an eight-week series of resilience and performance training offered at Camp Parks, California.
"This class is really great," said Brette Noble, 13, daughter of Army Chaplain Amy Noble. "I thought [the training] was going to be boring, but it turned out being really fun and super interactive, and I actually learned a lot of things that were really useful," she said.
Resilience and Performance Training for Teens is similar to the resilience training Soldiers receive as part of required annual unit-level training but is tailored for adolescents.
"The intent of the training is to create a shared vocabulary for Army families," said Dr. Denise Haselwood, a Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Expert with the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center at Camp Parks, who led the teen training. "All of the same skills are taught, but with some adjustments made with developmental differences [between adults and adolescents] in mind. This includes activities that are designed to give kids a more practical, hands-on way of experiencing a skill that has a more abstract form."
The teens learned resilience skills such as Active Constructive Responding and how to Avoid Thinking Traps, which help to build the competencies of self-awareness, self-regulation, optimism, mental agility, strengths of character, and connection. The training emphasizes the fact that individuals have control over their thoughts, which drive emotions, and that emotions significantly impact actions and consequences.
"I learned the thinking process, such as how to slow down and think: 'Did I really need to react this way or am I overreacting too much?' Since I've used this thinking process, I've slowed down and realized that I don't need to act [a certain] way and be agitated when I go home," said Noble.
The teens did not know what to expect on the first night of training, but they quickly realized the impact the skills would have on their lives and the relationships they have with others.
Timothy Simmons, 13 and the son of an Army recruiter, has seen an increase in the number of friends who seek him out for help. "I've used the skills at school when people come towards me with their problems. They'll come to me asking for help on how to do things and I'll help them," he said.
He also recognizes the importance of social sensitivity and being aware of other's feelings and emotions. "We learned how to solve problems and how to deal with other people when you're in a bad situation. When problems come towards me, I just know how to solve them so nothing comes off the wrong way, so my relationships aren't hurt," he said.
The training, which was coordinated and offered through Camp Parks' Child Youth and School Services (CYSS), ran for two-hours, one day a week, for eight consecutive weeks, culminating on Sept. 17, 2015. CYSS and the CSF2 MRT-PEs co-delivered this training, and CYSS provided instrumental line of sight coverage ensuring all Child and Youth Safety procedures were followed during this engagement (IAW AD-2014-23). Now that the teens are trained in the same skills, the entire family is equipped with techniques and strategies to help them strengthen their relationships with each other.
Noble and her mom "ask each other the good things that happened that day, which helps us to connect a bit more." Simmons and his father help each other to solve problems they may be facing that week.
Training the same resilience skills to teens helps to set them up for success in the future.
"A resilient teen, I think, will grow up to be a resilient adult. Which means that when life gets difficult, when bad things happen, these individuals will be equipped with the mental and emotional skills to handle those challenges in the best way possible given their options and resources at the time," said Haselwood. "Life is hard, the world is a sometimes dangerous place. Being emotionally and mentally prepared to face the unknown is no small feat. I would expect resilient teens to handle their journey through the unknown, not perfectly, but in a way that is flexible, open and curious. And when life knocks them down, they will find a way to get back up and go again," she said.
Resilience and Performance Training for Teens is now available to Army teens Army-wide. For more information about the training, visit http://csf2.army.mil/teen-training.html.