Living life is akin to riding a horse. One day you trot along quite serenely, the view is lovely, the air refreshing and the pace is invigorating. You and your horse travel in rhythm. Out of nowhere a sudden noise spooks the horse that is carrying you and in an instant your torso is thrown willy nilly into space and your heart leaps out of your chest while your stomach hurls up into your throat. Gravity is not your friend today.
Luckily, you have been raised to be resilient and expected to dust yourself off and get on your feet when life’s events throws you down. You have learned that the horse will settle, the journey will continue and you will be able to ride again.
Letting our kids struggle is usually one of the toughest parts of being a parent or a teacher. It can be agonizing to see them disappointed, heartbroken and in pain. But, isn’t that part of being a human? No one is exempt from adverse life experiences.
So how do we raise and educate resilient kids so that they can become resilient adults?
Build strong relationships with a child. Be open and present when they come to you with their stories, worries and complaints. Relationships are built over the long term and it is often those small little gestures of closing a computer or a book, or stopping to look to just hear a child that make a big difference in their self -esteem. Sometimes just knowing that someone in our life ‘gets us’ is enough to comfort us through the challenging times. Genuine human connection can get us through the darkest times. At the same time, don’t forget to practice what we preach and let kids see us reach out to others when we are struggling.
Practice and model how to make peace with mistakes. Failing is a sign that we need to correct our course, make changes and try again. Mistakes make us humble (if we let them) and they remind us of our own vulnerability. When we choose to allow children to see us make peace with our own mistakes we demonstrate that mistakes do not render us unlovable or immobile. We can move forward even with our imperfections.
Teach and model flexible thinking. Entertaining negative thoughts is human nature, but flexible notice their damaging thoughts, recognize them as counter- productive and replace them with more balanced thoughts. Assumptions, blame, pity are destructive when taken too seriously. They do nothing to help us move forward. When we can determine what aspects of a problem or situation are within our ability to change and which aspects are out of our control, we can do what needs to be done and allow the rest to be what it is. Kids need help to learn the skill of flexible thinking from an adult who practices it themselves.
Practice and model optimistic thinking. People who look at events with an optimistic attitude seek the kernels of good that are hidden in the darkest events. They genuinely believe that adversity can be overcome. Optimists believe something good will come out of something bad if they look for it. Optimistic people have a âcan do attitude.
Think about it: What attitude are you modeling? Is the child learning anger, hostility, resentment, fear and blame, or hope, persistence, faith, optimism and collaboration?