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Wolin, Brooks and others emphasize that to build resilience in a child does not require the molding of a superkid. What's needed is to find one or two things--what Brooks calls "islands of competence"--at which the child can succeed and thus derive a measure of self-confidence. Barry Plummer, a clinical psychologist on the faculty of Brown University's medical school who, in private practice, works with adolescents, says that grownups should "encourage a kid to master something even if he stinks at school--a sport, music, someplace he can go where he is of value. This can build a pocket of resilience."
Fine. But how? Kids aren't talking to parents; parents are overtaxed if not absent; teachers are depleted by teaching, never mind mentoring. How? "It is a problem," says Wolin. "So far, resiliency has been good at describing a situation but hasn't been very prescriptive."
Asked what he would tell kids in the same situation that he faced, Oriani replied, "Reach out." He was luckier than a lot of kids to find someone he could grasp.
--By Robert Sullivan