What is resilience?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after a disappointment or a devastating event. The ‘bouncing’ doesn’t have to be immediate or speedy, there just has to be light at the end of the tunnel. There is a link between individuals who lack resilience and their susceptibility to depression, anxiety and suicide. There is a distinct lack of resilience in our current young generation that we’ve never seen before and it has been linked to social media, processed foods and a lack of family connectedness.
These days we try to insulate our children from the harsh realities of real life and shield them from our struggles and sadness, but this gives them an unrealistic view of the world. It also gives them an unrealistic notion that adults have everything figured out and don’t have difficulties. Most importantly it removes any opportunity for children to watch someone else get knocked down and get back up again, and therefore learn how to do it for themselves.
Step 1: Develop and maintain a close relationship with your child
Your children will always need you as their support network, even though their dependence on your fluctuates as they grow. As they head for high school and adolescence they will develop their own support network of friends and the opinions of those friends begins to hold more sway than yours. That is normal. When they’re young, you need to invest time and energy in a variety of things that will build a close relationship between you and your child. Things such as one-on-one time, maintaining physical contact (hugs, snuggling on the couch for a movie, rustle of their hair), being involved in their sports, being able to discuss their interests with them and maintaining family routines at home. This last one can be difficult as they resist ‘boring’ family dinners or Sunday morning breakfast or Saturday family movie night, but these regular connection points are crucial as they become teenagers, so do your best to maintain them.
Step 2: Model the resilience process
Kids need to know that everyone needs resilience and adults aren’t magically bulletproof. They also need to learn and follow by example. As parents we need to set that example – it’s part of our responsibility. Therefore when we have a difficulty or a disappointment we need to show our kids what we are going through. We have to explain to them the process that we are working through to overcome the hard times. Using the resilience card (I’m holding one in the photo below) you can explain the steps to your children as your work through your own difficulty. There is no need to explain the entire process in one sitting and no set time on how long it should take you to work through all the steps. The aim at this stage is to familiarise your child with the language used in the steps and how they go about each step of the process.
For example, I recently had a rare form of pneumonia and it took the doctors a long time to figure out why I was so sick and I became very frustrated. When I ended up in tears I explained to my kids that I was sad and frustrated. I explained why I was upset – because I was sick and not getting better. I told them the doctors were trying to fix me and I was lucky to have their dad to help me do things at home and look after them. I had friends dropped off meals and flowers and told them how grateful I was for that. I reflected with them on how I needed to accept the need to rest more than I did. I went through all the things I was grateful for, including the people supporting us and my family. I then spoke optimistically about the future and my trust in the doctors and that things would go back to normal and I would get better one day soon.
Step 3: Guide them through the resilience process
As they grow children need their support network to guide them through the resilience process as they learn it for themselves. This can start as early as toddlerhood when their tantrums are signs of frustration and they’re beginning to learn about their emotions. Of course, distraction is also useful at this early stage but you can slowly ease them into the process as they grow. Teach them to name their emotions and accept that any feelings are normal. By the time they are at primary school they should be familiar with each stage of the process, but not necessarily in the precise order. For example, they could practice gratitude regularly. They should be able to plan and discuss the future in an optimistic way. They could reflect on an event and look for positives and negatives and methods for improvement. As they near the end of primary school they should be familiar with the resilience process card and they should be confident to go through the process on it with a support person. By high school they will become more and more independent with the process and may need the card (and your guidance) less and less.
Learn more about the resilience process
Are you teaching your children to be resilient? We hear about resilience all the time, but what really is it? More importantly how do we improve the resilience of our children and adolescents so they can lead happier and healthier lives? Let me show you a few ways you can easily do this! I have a parent guide as well as a family reference card to help you teach your children how to be more resilient. Get both guides for free here https://bit.ly/eoresilienceguides.