You stand back up
And you keep going”
Today on the blog, we have the lovely Saakshi Singla from India, who is a Gender Equality Parenting Expert and a Family coach. She is a mother of two fiercely independent and resilient young adults. In her post today, she describes the meaning of resilience alongside ways to build resilience among children.
The study of resilience has always fascinated me. I often wonder, how people withstand outrageous circumstances, war, brutality, death of loved ones, and life-threatening illnesses? Why do some of them live through such extreme experiences, with their spirit intact, while others are permanently damaged? Is it something intrinsic in their personality makeup or is there a genetic component of character? Studies have proved that we don’t have a resilience gene in us.
In the words of Ann S Masten (professor at the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota), ”Resilience is not a magic bullet or a special power; it has in fact been conceptualized as a type of an Ordinary Magic; despite the fact 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 their homes and their parent’s spirit. Our lives and our children’s lives have changed so much, but the human spirit hasn’t failed and this time has taught us to adapt, to learn and to keep going on. When I ask parents, 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 happy (forever). But think about it, is this a realistic expectation when we know that our children will also have to experience some kind of adversity in their life. It could be in the form of hardships, frustration or even disappointments. Shouldn’t we then, wish for our children to thrive, no matter what their circumstance 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 resilience.
Hardships both big and small are a part of growing up. Our children will see their share, maybe in the form of their pets passing away, friends moving on, death in the family, moving homes, changing schools, or leaving friends behind. Life will happen to them and things will move at its own pace. They might not be picked for a school competition or they may not qualify in the school’s sports team, they might not be invited to a cool party or they may experience some form of bullying. Instead of always wishing happiness for them, it is important to equip them with coping skills that enable them to deal with setbacks and disappointments.
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 these myself. My two young adults have learned to enjoy the sunshine when it is around and to dance in the rain when there is no other choice.
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 and learning)
Inspire them with stories of resilience – real stories of people, and from books, movies, and other media resources on resilience.
Use the 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 the language of resilience.
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.
Teach Resilience skills:
Independence, problem- solving, optimism, and social skills. These skills in turn help in developing coping mechanisms such as emotional flexibility, autonomy, empathy, and a growth mindset in your children. 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. We should welcome it now and then.
Don’t be Fixer:
Try your hardest to keep away from fixing your children’s problems. Allow them to go through some difficulties and hardships which are valuable learning opportunities. Encouraging resilience is allowing children to independently solve their problems without going to their rescue the moment we see them frustrated. Don’t bubble wrap your kids and don’t childproof everything. Let them take age-appropriate risks and find solutions on their own.
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. Learning to be thankful is another way that teaches our children resilience. Make sure your home is a place where your children learn the art of gratitude journaling.
Ending with my favorite 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 every time they fell.
“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
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To read posts from September, click here