I have gotten a lot of advice over the years on how to raise my kids; from food, to discipline, to schools, to how to interact with them. Some advice has been helpful, while others, not so much. However, there has always been one piece of advice that I have heard and continue to hear that has always bothered me - that kids are resilient and can overcome anything, so I shouldn’t worry so much about how change or decisions will impact them. I have heard this many times, and it has always been said in a way that assumes kids are automatically resilient and adapt to any situation because they are young and able to bounce back. Every time I hear this, I bite my tongue and often smile in agreement to avoid debating the topic. But in my head, I am always thinking if they were so resilient, why do we have so many kids that are “screwed up”, why are so many kids “acting out”, and why do we have so many kids that lack self-esteem and confidence. More importantly why do we have so many adults with issues that stem from their childhood and the experiences they had.
Let’s face it, kids are not as resilient as we think, and it certainly does not always come automatically. Each child is unique and is at their own level of resilience. Many often appear to be resilient at first, because they are too young to understand, and don’t have a voice in many of the decisions that impact their lives, so they often make the best of a situation. We, as parents, see this and believe they are ok because that is what we want to see and believe, only to wonder “what happened” or “what went wrong” later on when our kids aren’t stepping up and living to their fullest potential.
I have found what appears to be resilience at first is often short sited without any consideration to long term impacts, and the cumulation of various events and experiences on them. I see it every day in kids young and old and I see the impact of childhood experiences carried through in adulthood. Resilience is not automatic, and instead of assuming that it is, let’s start empowering our kids with the tools to become resilient.
As my awareness has expanded over the years, my parenting style has shifted to align with it. As a result, I have focused on teaching my kids how to be resilient instead of continuing to let time take its course and hoping for them to be “ok”. Resilience is incorporated everyday into our family lifestyle, through open communication, dialogue and practice.
There are many ways that I work on building resilience in my household and they all center on being mindful and aware. One of the tools we use is my ASFLM process. Whatever negative situation or feeling we are going through – whether it is big or small - we Acknowledge it, Sit with it and Feel it, Let it go, and make a plan to Move Forward.
Acknowledge It – I teach my kids to acknowledge what they are feeling and be honest as to why they feel that way. Acknowledging is easy but being honest about why you feel a certain way is much harder. It is not always easy to admit the source of what is going on behind those feelings (perhaps it is insecurity, jealousy or competition), but if you can be truthful with yourself, then you are half way to moving on. This involves time and reflection, and I find the best way to acknowledge is by sharing and talking it through. Sharing doesn’t have to be with a person, it can be done by writing in a journal as well.
Sit With It & Feel It – No matter what the emotion, sit with it and feel it. It is ok to feel sad and cry, and it is ok to be angry and hurt. I have taught them to feel their emotions as opposed to sweeping them under the rug and pretending everything is ok.
Let It Go – While we want to feel our emotions, we don’t want to stay in a negative place. Once we have felt our emotions and understood them, I have taught them to make a decision to let go and release them. It is at this point that we make a commitment to a new way of thinking and feeling. Yoga, meditation, music, exercise, being in nature and visualization have been instrumental in helping with this process.
Move Forward – Lastly, we set goals and make a plan on how to move forward and change how we feel or adapt to a new situation. This may involve something as simple as recharging your mind by doing something you love, or perhaps it involves something bigger and taking specific actions, like deciding on how to interact with a difficult person or letting go of a certain friend or activity. Taking action is critical to moving forward.
Life is full of ups and downs, and there will always be changes and challenges our children will face along the way. I believe every child is capable of being resilient, however, let’s not assume its automatic. Let’s instead empower them and give them the tools to be resilient. In doing so, we lay a strong foundation for their future and their ability to thrive through all that life brings their way.