Posttraumatic Growth

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Dr. Richard Tedeschi, Professor of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Charlotte discusses how positive transformation can follow a traumatic event.

When bad things happen, people often feel like it will break them — a serious illness, death of a loved one or an unfortunate event. However, scientific studies show most people recover from major life crises transformed AND even stronger than before.

This phenomenon is called Posttraumatic Growth (PTG). In this Soaringwords video, Lisa chats with Dr. Tedeschi, a leading expert in the field, who discusses how PTG is a process people go through and a place they get to when they come to recognize that they have been transformed.

PTG refers to a positive change experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Posttraumatic Growth is not simply a return to baseline, the way your life was before the traumatic event. Instead it is an experience of IMPROVEMENT after the traumatic event that may be extremely profound, even life changing.


How Does Helping Another Child Make An Ill Child Feel Better?

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PHOTO: ALCIR N. DA SILVADr. Ron Taffel is one of the most eclectic and practical child-rearing experts in the country and the author of two best-selling books, Parenting by Heart: How to be in Charge, Stay Connected and Instill Your Values- When it Feels Like You’ve Got 15 Minutes a Day (Addison Wesley) and Why Parents Disagree: How Women and Men Parent Differently and How We Can Work Together (Morrow).   He has also been featured on 20/20, The Today Show, CNN, and hundreds of radio shows.




Solid historical evidence shows that children’s sense of self-esteem, self-worth, mood, and anxiety lifts when given the opportunity to help others.  In fact, Freud instructed parents of an anxious and ill child to purchase a dog for the girl.  The child moved beyond her fears by focusing on caring for her pet.  Since this time, parents and professionals have found, over and over again, that vulnerable or stressed children (and adults) are relieved of burdens when offered the opportunity to care for others.  Unfortunately, today’s pop culture promotes the notion that kids just want to consume things.  This focus on “stuff” and material acquisition makes us forget that children’s powerful and inate desire to help others is still intact.  It is compelling to remember that even children who are clearly suffering will be relieved of their burdens when they can do something to help someone else.


Acts of kindness give children a sense of power at a point when they are feeling the worst sense of powerlessness.  The hospital environment isolates children — machines beeping at all hours of the day and night, tubes, procedures, and too much time away from friends.  They feel so many negative things inside because “nothing seems to be working right” in their body and they have no control.  Doing an act of kindness helps children feel empowered.  This feeling is contagious.  It makes them feel more in control and more powerful at a difficult time.

Children identify with each other.  Doing something positive for another ill child reduces feelings of isolation and despair.  From nursery school through college, children are surrounded by their peers.  Their self-identity is wrapped up in beliefs, language, trends and behaviors that are shaped and shared in groups.  That’s why it is not surprising that the isolation of illness is one of the biggest hardships for hospitalized and chronically ill children.  When ill and challenged children reach out and take actions to help others, it gives them an experience that is incalculably positive because it instills a sense of hope.  They can immediately see or imagine how this kindness transforms an ill child.  Then they feel a sense of possibility and hope, leaving their sadness and isolation behind.  The child learns and borrows from this experience allowing them to feel more hopeful and positive in the face of the most difficult circumstances.

When children are ill, adults tend to focus primarily on the treatment of the child’s illness.  It is natural that when a child is ill, his or her parents will organize around attending to the child’s needs, treatments, and the alleviation of symptoms and discomfort.  Normal routines (enjoying fun activities together, doing homework, eating dinner together, watching TV and relaxing) go by the wayside and the child’s identity can be subsumed by the illness.  Another positive consequence when an ill child does kind acts for other ill children is that it gives parents, doctors, nurses and other caregivers the opportunity to acknowledge the child’s true personality as evidenced through creativity, kindness, and compassion.  This in turn makes the child feel more positively about themselves and their actions.


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Joanne Fluke Since she was a young girl, Joanne wanted to be a ballroom dancer. She was born with Caudal Regression Syndrome, where she could not stand on her webbed legs. The fact that she has never walked did not deter her from her goal. Dancing is her passion especially since she discovered Zumba® Fitness.  Today she is a Zumba instructor and leads experiences for children and families at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas. Watch Zumba co-founder Beto Perez leading a class at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Florida.

Watch Joanne on NBC news:

Watch Beto Perez, the co-founder of Zumba®, lead a class in the hospital:


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Sean had a heart transplant when he was three years old. We met him at a school-wide service learning day as 407 students created SoaringMurals to brighten the waiting rooms at Beth Israel Medical Center.  During the activity Sean told Lisa, “When I was a baby I lived in the hospital for years. I know that this is not simply an art project, it is a lifeline that will let hospitalized children and their families know that they are not alone.”

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Sean stood up at the Closing Ceremony in front of all of the students in elementary, middle and high school and told them his story and thanked them for being part of the project. The gym erupted in applause and the students and teachers gave him a standing ovation. Sean spoke at many of our events sharing his courage and his positive message about doing something nice for other people. Watch SoaringChampion Sean inspiring teens to make a difference.

See Sean speak at Soaringwords event, 3:55 time code:



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Gabby Photo 2Gabby missed two years of school during her treatment. Her mother discovered Soaringwords from her job at Johnson & Johnson where we shared Caring for Yourself as a Caregiver webinars and other healing tools for employees and families grappling with serious illness. Soaringwords taught Gabby and her mom about the power of healing imagery in order to help Gabby experience a sense of control. Each morning and night, Gabby and her mom closed their eyes re-enacting the special SoaringImagery that Gabby designed.



Gabby Photo 1

In this way, Gabby and her mom took an active role in her healing. Gabby wanted to do more to share the power to heal with others.  Each time she went to the oncology clinic for her treatment she brought a different activity – superheroes, haikus and other positive interventions to share with patients and families. This gave her a sense of meaning and purpose and the opportunity to focus on helping others instead of worrying about her condition.




Grace’s Story

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graceWhen Grace was 9 years old, a brain disease resulted in a month-long hospitalization. During this time, her best friend Naomi brought her a SoaringQuilt and SoaringPillow decorated with colorful, positive messages and artwork. This healing act inspired so much hope and connection for Grace and her entire family. Grace started a Soaringwords club at her high school. Each week, students came together to “pay it forward” and do different Soaringwords projects to donate to hospitalized children. Today, Grace is in college grateful that her experience was able to inspire other children to find hope. 

(Photo Credit: Arnold Adler,