The Resilience Fallacy

“Don’t worry, she’ll bounce back. Children are resilient!”

boy child clouds kid

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Over the years, through divorce, moving, kids’ changing schools, new relationships, issues with friends, various diagnoses, etc., that adage and similar advice has been doled out to me like so much candy on Hallowe’en.

Although assuming that children will bounce back after trauma or even minor incidents may sound innocent enough and even reassuring, it can be a dangerous assumption.

What is Resilience?

Psychological resilience is the ability to cope with a crisis or to return to pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses “mental processes and behaviors in promoting personal assets and protecting self from the potential negative effects of stressors”. Wikipedia

Building resiliency in children is vitally important and it’s a skill that can make a critical and positive difference in your child’s life.

Here are some methods that can help:

Let them solve their own problems:

While we might want to jump in and “save” our children from falls (literal or metaphorical), it’s vitally important that kids learn how to defend themselves, stand up for themselves and others, and find ways of coping in difficult situations.

Of course, this isn’t a way to opt out of helping your children or forcing them to make bad decisions because they don’t understand the options but rather it’s a way for them to test their own skills in order to help build up their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Be a living example:

Through your words and actions, show children how you deal with problems in your workplace, with your own friends, in your neighbourhood, etc. – and also how you dealt with different situations as a child.

I find watching movies or reading books about how children deal with minute or massive problems teaches them context. For instance, my partner and I watched the movie “Lion” a few days ago and I can’t wait to watch it again with my children for both its cinematic brilliance and the incredible story-line and ending. (I won’t add too much here in case you haven’t seen it. Please do!)  My daughter is also into learning about Anne Frank – and of course there is plenty of context provided with her amazing and courageous story.

Be there for them

This may sound contradictory to the above advice but it’s not. To me (and I am certainly not perfect at this and fail regularly) it’s about trying to be there for my kids when they really need me and not hanging them out to dry. So, let’s say, your child had a bad day or was bullied at school or saw something that made them uncomfortable. Ask them about it, try to help them solve the problem, be sympathetic and perhaps brainstorm possible solutions.

Something that seems to work for me is asking my kids, “Do you want me to talk to the teacher about that?” if it’s a problem related to school. They almost always say no. Even though they often don’t want me to step in, I feel like asking my children if they’d like me to intervene puts the power back in their hands. Note: Occasionally, I do talk to teachers or principals if I feel it’s important to step in!

Get out there

Whether it’s volunteering, building leadership skills or travelling, getting outside of one’s comfort zone can build resiliency by providing new experiences and challenges.

Travelling has been one of the single most defining aspects of my life. Not only has travelling to other regions and countries allowed me to experience new worlds, but the lead-up of researching trips, booking hotel or hostel reservations and flights (even as a teenager) and asking strangers for assistance has helped to develop my self-esteem and resilience. Meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds also provides context and perspective to consider when faced with a difficult situations.

ball shaped blur close up focus

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

If you are able to volunteer and/or travel with your family, you might ask your children to help research the non-profit organization or new region, point out aspects affected by war or strife, talk to locals, learn a new language or a new skill. In any case, if you are travelling by plane, train or automobile, everyone will have to learn to be patient, creative and innovative together when faced with inevitable travel delays!

What tools have you used to help your children build resilience? What happened in your own childhood that helped you face adversity? I’d love to hear from you.

Update from May

I’d also like to provide a quick update on “No Money May” since it’s now June. I’ve recently had surgery so was forced into a no spending mode for the last part of the month. Overall, I’ll give myself a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10 for not spending frivolously. I heard from other people who were going to try No Money May too. If you did it, how did it work out for you?

Feel free to comment at bottom or write to me privately.

 

Onward and upwards,

Lisa

 

13 responses to “The Resilience Fallacy

  1. Rebekah Murdoch

    Fabulous article

    Sent from my iPhone Rebekah Murdoch 4165566119 http://www.theyoganest.ca

    >

  2. Thank you so much, Rebekah.

  3. What a wonderful post with so many great suggestions. As the mother of 4 – 2 in their teens and 2 in their 20s I recognize the importance of pushing our children out of their comfort zones

  4. Heidi Miller-Ford

    I agree with you that making the assumption children are going to be resilient is dangerous. Some kids internalize a lot and you can’t see how they are feeling. I love your strategies you list here to help them deal with tough situations.

  5. Lisa, building emotional resilience is an important topic, and the time to start is while our children are living at home, so kudos for writing about it. You asked for examples of building resilience in kids. Here’s a non-planned one: when I had an 11rh and 8th grader (while homeschooling), I was diagnosed with cancer. My 11th grader had to jump into scheduling meals and rides for radiation treatments. They both had to work at doing more around the house and finishing their homeschooling year without as much oversight as usual. Weathering a storm like that definitely built both kids’ faith and emotional resilience, although I wouldn’t have chosen that particular lesson to teach them!

  6. Kids are resilient! I think much more than adults. I hope my children do well when we move next year.

  7. This is such an important topic and I just love how you wrote about it so mindfully. With my children keeping the balance was very important too – but at the end of the day no matter how it seems sometimes – it paid off:)

  8. Pingback: Growth Mindset Parenting | Kids & Mental Health

  9. Pingback: Cheap & Cheerful Ways to Enjoy the Last Days of Summer | Kids & Mental Health

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