Be Resilient, B-E Resilient!
If I am being totally honest, I really struggled with choosing an appropriate topic for my first blog post of the academic year. Starting the year by writing about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox seemed frivolous given our current climate…but who wants to read more doom and gloom about COVID statistics, or one more article about DIY face masks? Not me.
I started thinking about this year, which has been a never-ending kick in the teeth. I see people who are struggling to make it through one day at a time, and then others who seem like they’re not only maintaining, but thriving. What’s different? How does one group of people sail along unbothered, while the other barely puts one foot in front of the other? Quite simply, resilience. And resilience is going to get us through this nightmare of a year and on to the next.
I could write volumes about the effects this year is having and will continue to have on adults, but today I want to focus on our kiddos. Specifically, how do we make sure we are raising resilient little humans? Is there anything we can do to encourage this trait? What can we start doing right now, this minute, today, even while we’re homeschooling and virtual meeting and giving air-high-fives to each other from 6 feet away? Luckily there is a simple answer.
What is Resilience?
First, what is resilience? Resilience is the ability to recover quickly or bounce back from adversity, challenges, trauma, or failure. An additional definition that I really like from dictionary.com is “The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc. after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.” Isn’t that what life is? A bunch of experiences that bend and stretch us, sometimes in positive ways and sometimes not, followed by our reactions?
Of course everyone’s experiences will be different, depending on a wide variety of factors such as family unit, socio-economic background, geographic location, and more. So how do we know what factors strengthen resilience the most? Decades of research has done this for us. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA, three factors stand out for contributing to resilience in children.
Three Main Factors
- Cognitive development/problem solving skills – We must encourage our children to do things for themselves, instead of us doing it for them. They are capable of figuring things out! Structured problem solving, on the other hand, can take many forms, and will change depending on age. Younger children can do puzzles and shape sorter games, while older children can build with blocks or legos or go on scavenger hunts, for example.
- Self-regulation- Teaching children to identify and control emotions is essential. It is our job to teach them (as well as show them) how to handle stressful situations. It is important to help them label how they feel in the moment and assure them that these emotions are OK and will pass. Stress management techniques such as deep breathing or counting are helpful as well.
- Relationships with caring adults – Children live in a wide range of family units these days. Two parents, single parents, extended families, same-sex parents, the list goes on. The bottom line is children need to form stable, caring relationships with adults, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a parent in the home, or a coach at school. These positive relationships are essential. They help children feel connected, and provide additional opportunities for them to see appropriate coping and problem-solving behaviors.
OK, now we know the most important factors for fostering resilience in children…so what do we do about it? Is there an extensive resilience therapy program for our kids? Maybe a rigorous extracurricular activity plan with a different sport each day? Tutors? Private lessons?
Nope. According to SAMHSA, there is one simple activity we need to do with our children. Play. Seriously. That’s it. Play with our kids. Put down our phones, give them our complete attention, and PLAY. Go outside and build forts. Stay inside and make towers with blocks. Draw. Play soccer or frisbee in the yard. Encourage mistakes. Talk things out when they miss the basket or their tower falls down.
Most importantly, be a good example. 2020 has been a year to say the least. But what an opportunity to show our kids how to be resilient! Be kind, be patient, be generous, admit when you make mistakes, and love your neighbor. When I was a cheerleader way back when, we had a cheer that went like this, ‘Be aggressive! B-E Aggressive!’ I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough aggression to last me quite some time. So how about we ‘Be resilient! B-E resilient’ instead?
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