Did you know that resilience is a learned trait? That means that at any point in a persons life, they can learn to be more resilient. As parents, it is our job to be proactive in building resilience in children.
The people who we go through the hardest experiences with, are many times the ones we have the most connection with throughout life. There’s a reason for the incredible solidarity that comes with military, athletics, debates, graduate school, med school, child bearing, and any other kind of activity we engage in that is downright hard.
It is hard physically, emotionally, mentally, socially.
Hard experiences stick in our minds, because the experience itself was so intense it would be hard to ever forget. It is also hard to forget because ultimately we come through hard experiences as changed people.
We are not the same after basic training.
We are not the same after losing the championship game by one point, the one-point-shot that we missed.
Nor are we the same after bearing a child. You may also remember vividly that one time that you were living on four hours of sleep, writing endless papers, and reading hundreds of research articles only to be argued down and graded harshly by professors.
These things are transformative and powerful in shaping the people we become. No one enters parenthood and comes out unchanged. You come out as a seasoned, weary, hopefully satisfied parent, grand-parent, great-grand-parent. The people who make it to the other side with you are now some of your closest friends, most trusted allies, and fondest companions.
Perhaps your family will never experience one of those really, really, really hard trials. But I doubt it. Even in my short life, I’ve known enough people to know that no one makes it very long in mortality without trial and struggle besetting them. Either directly or indirectly through the people they love.
Our Heavenly Father expects great things from each of us and has a grand plan for each of our lives. In order to realize our true potential we must be capable of passing through fiery trials. In order for our kids to realize their true potential, they too must be able to endure and pass through fiery trials. To pass through the fire, not skirt around the outside or jump out at the first opportunity, but to pass all the way through the tranformative fire.
Building Resilience in Children
I believe teaching our children to work hard, from young ages, builds this tolerance for enduring hard things. The hard things are going to come, whether we want them to or not and whether we prepare our children for them or not.
Teach your children to work, by working right alongside them. Give your children vast and varied experiences. This does not have to be expensive! Give them the responsibility of making dinner every evening for a week.
This is a hard thing!
It’s a very hard thing when those weeks stretch into months, years, and decades of meal planning, preparation, and grocery shopping. Allow your children the experience of struggling with motivation to cook, the complaints of the rest of the family, and the burden of hunger but little time to make something to eat.
Encourage your child to try new things and enforce a period of sticking-it-out to help them grow in endurance. Sure, not every interest our children have is going to blossom into a passion, but there is much to be learned from trying something new and sticking with it for a season.
New experiences teach us:
- to work beyond comfort
- to not give in when it gets hard
- new skills
- to make new friendships
- to appreciate the talents of others
- to ask for help
- how to learn
It is important that we pass through some fiery trials right alongside our children. Remember, those we experience the hardest things with, are those we are closest to. It is also building resilience for success later in life!
We want connection to our children.
We want to do all the things with them.
Ultimately, we want them to be happy, successful, kind, smart, true to themselves, followers of Christ, and a light to the world.
As parents, are we training our children to be all of these things in the face of tremendous adversity? How are we training them to be happy even when a beloved family pet dies, grandma dies, when they fail a test, or when they lose a friendship?
Are we teaching the difference between happiness and joy?
I began by saying that those with whom we do the hardest things are those we become closest too. And that is true, but it also can have the opposite effect. Hard things have the very same power to separate, divide, and destroy relationships as well as solidify, strengthen, and sweeten relationships.
The difference comes down to our choices when reacting to the hard things that come our way.
We are all in the midst of a very hard thing right now. Social distancing, shelter-in-place orders, the economic stress of worksites closing and ever-changing prices is surely taking its toll on you and your family.
I hope we can remember that this very hard thing–and it really is HARD–has the potential to be a bonding experience for our families. It is a great time for building resilience in our kids! We have choices to make each day. Any amount of effort to make the best of this situation will pay dividends in strengthening relationships.
Don’t beat yourself up about mistakes! Commit to tackling this challenge and do your best to do your best each day. The Lord will take care of the rest. Here is a fantastic book on Resilience that helps you learn how to build resilience in yourself and your kids!