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 stand up, dust yourself off and get on keep moving when life’s events throw you down. You have learned that the horse will settle, the journey will continue and you will enjoy the ride again.
Letting our kids struggle is usually one of the toughest parts of being a parent. 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.
Resiliency doesn’t just happen. It needs to be taught, modeled and most importantly, nurtured. Our kids with autism cannot possibly learn to be resilient if we habitually jump in to save them from a fall or a disappointment. They cannot learn to trust themselves to survive a heartbreak if we steal opportunities from them. As heart wrenching as it is, effective parents allow their children (with or without autism) to fail, to fall, to get hurt, to suffer. Not because they are sadistic but because they know that authentic self esteem is grown in the garden of adversity. It is through falling and getting back up; through failing and working hard to make changes that humans learn to trust themselves to bounce back from defeat. It is through the experience of being hurt that we learn to improve self advocacy, communication and forgiveness in order to move forward. The long term gain in terms of mental, emotional health and self -esteem are well worth the short term pain.
So what exactly do we have to do to raise resilient kids? Stay tuned for upcoming posts…