You stand back up
And you keep going”
The study of resilience has always fascinated me. I wonder often, how do people withstand outrageous circumstances, war, brutality, death of loved ones and life threatening illness? Why do some of them live through such extreme experiences, with their spirit relatively intact, while others are permanently damaged? Is it something intrinsic in their personality makeup, some genetic component of character? Studies have proved that we don’t have a resilience gene in us. In the words of Ann S Masten, who is a professor at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota, ”Resilience is not a magic bullet or special power; it has in fact been conceptualised as a type of Ordinary Magic ; given that, although powerful, some level of resilience is attainable to everyone”.
Some children are born resilient, they say , but most often their resilience comes from the home environment and from their parent’s resilient spirit.We are not born with a resilience gene, instead it is a skill that is teachable. In this new CoronaVirus world, it is becoming more and more imperative to model resilience at our homes. Our lives and our children’s lives have changed so much, but human spirit isn’t failing and it is teaching us to adapt, learn and keep going on. When I ask parents I meet , what is it they wish for the most for their children? More than 90% always end up saying that they want their kids to be forever happy. But is it a realistic expectation when we know, our children will also have to experience some kind of adversity in the form of hardships, frustration and disappointments in their life. Shouldn’t we then, wish for our children to thrive, no matter whatever life throws at them. If I was given a choice to pick up just one thing that I think we parents need to teach our children over everything else, then I would pick up resilience.
Hardships both big and small are part of growing up. Our children will see their share too, may be in the form of their pets passing away, friends moving on, death in the family, moving homes, changing schools and leaving friends behind. Life will happen to them and will move on it’s own speed. They might not be picked for a school competition or fail to qualify for the school’s sports team, left off from cool party invitation lists and /or may experience some form of bullying. Instead of always wishing happiness for them, it is important to equip them with coping skills to be able to deal with all these disappointments and challenges.
So if we are not born with a resilience gene and it is teachable , then what is it that we can do to teach resilience to our children?
Given below are some of the ways I talk about in my coaching and have been using them in my own parenting. My two young adults have learnt to thrive through the ups and downs of their lives and also how to enjoy the sunshine when it is around and dance in the rain when there is no other choice.
1. Model Resilience: Make sure your children don’t catch you complaining, blaming the circumstances or giving up on things easily. ( mind you, this is the toughest one…. as we use a lot of self sabotaging words in our daily life, without sometimes noticing that our children are watching)
2. Use Storytelling :Inspire them with stories of resilience – real stories of people, and from books, movies and other media resources on resilience.
3. Use Language of Resilience : Be careful with the language you use at home. Avoid the phrases that discourage children from being resilient and replace them with language of resilience.
4. Inspire them with lessons from nature : Make conversations on how resilience helps nature survive. When confronted with life’s obstacles, teach your children to be more like nature, and learn to bend like trees bending in a hailstorm, or a seed sprouting in concrete.
5. Teach Resilience skills – independence, problem- solving, optimism and social skills. These skills in turn help develop coping skills like emotional flexibility, autonomy, empathy, growth mindset and emotional flexibility in your children.Things that will help your children to navigate through hardships throughout their life. It’s worth remembering that the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees so if we want our kids to be resilient it’s best not to be afraid of a little wind. In fact, we should welcome it every now and then.
6. Don’t be Fixer : Try your hardest to keep away and not fix all of your children’s problems. To let them go through some difficulties, as hardships are valuable learning opportunities. Encouraging resilience is allowing children to attempt solving their own problems without going to their rescue the moment we see them frustrated.Don’t bubble wrap your kids and don’t child proof everything. Let them take age appropriate risks and find solutions on their own.
7.Gratitude Journaling : Gratitude has the power to transform lives. Counting our blessings and feeling and expressing gratitude, helps our children to see the brighter side of life. Make sure your home is a place where your children learn the art of gratitude journaling.
Ending with my favourite quote on resilience which my children have heard hundreds of times. The one which has given them hope and courage to fight back and stand back up after each fall, “Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.” –Oprah Winfrey
Child & Family Coach, Gender Equality Parenting Expert & A mother two fiercely independent and resilient young adults.