By Shikha Silwal

Silwal is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University. She can be reached at silwals@wlu.edu

Resilience is a word that is often used to portray children, especially those that have undergone some traumatic experiences. Resilient is how we categorize forcefully conscripted child soldiers of Uganda, children lured to fight in Charles Taylor’s Liberia, oppressed girls in Pakistan, and molested U.S. Olympic gymnasts, to name just a few instances where children have demonstrated extraordinary fortitude.

Also resilient are approximately 311 million children worldwide who are subjected to ‘every day’ violence in the form of parental violence. Likewise, resilient is also how we describe the recently rescued Wild Boars soccer team’s 12 boys and their 25-year-old coach for not only surviving the ordeal, but also for the way in which they overcame it and are recovering from it. It turns out that the children are not new to beating the odds for their survival and so, they have shown their resilience time and again.

Every time I find children described as resilient, I am reminded of a Rabindranath Tagore’s quote, “When I stand before thee at the day’s end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.” Children carry the scars from the harm that the malaise of the society inflicts on them. They have their wound and in many amazing ways their healing, too.

Whilst celebrating the miraculous rescue of the Thai boys and their soccer coach, attention naturally drew to separated migrant children that were locked up and yet to be reunited with their parents. It is too soon to call these migrant children resilient, but before we even contemplate their future and their well-being, it is worth pausing to acknowledge that we now have a new adjective to describe child suffering. A new bin to categorize the horrors the children have gone through is created and is part of our vocabulary now. “The separated migrant children” is the new classification. That is how we have begun recognizing these children and their early life traumatic experience. Their resilience, in due time, shall be gauged upon their life outcomes from henceforth.

Even if the children’s wounds are yet to be revealed let alone healed, their parents — the asylum-seekers, the illegal immigrants — no matter how we identify them, are themselves the resilient children of yesteryears. Growing up in the 1990s, the parents of the separated migrant children, especially from El Salvador, already beat the odds of their survival by not falling prey to various forms of violence. With homicide rate around 100 per 100,000 in the mid-1990s in El Salvador, violence was ubiquitous as they were growing up. It is their resilience that propelled them to take the horrendous journey to seek protect for themselves and their children.

If the resilience of the children of the 1990s brings them here today, one wonders where the resilience of their children may motivate them to go someday. The dead perish, but our deeds linger. It shows up in the scars the children bear. Their resilience, time and again, is shown to transcend time, space, and culture, yet those are the same factors that are constantly against them.

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