Understanding Resilience & Why it Matters
The definition of resilience. "the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity." and the "ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy."
I often hear people describe their children as or their hopes for their children to be resilient. There is a desire that our children would be humans that can bounce back from challenges and lean into problem solving with a posture of inquisitiveness. In the classroom, this was a very fundamental part of my teaching--facilitating children through their learning whether social, emotional, physical, mental, etc. The kiddos could learn how to problem solve or solve social conflict independently with seemingly endless amounts of verbal repetition while coming along side of them in those challenges. As a parent, I personally want my kiddo to keep trying to find a solution when he's not putting the puzzle piece in correctly or if his block tower keeps falling over instead of chucking things across the room if it doesn't work.
I've been there with him to provide social emotional support, talking through how we can problem solve and do what he was hoping to achieve. I would remind him to stop and take a deep breath before trying again if he was noticeably frustrated. I've done this thousands of times in the classroom but it hit me on a more personal level.
How many times have I hoped for and facilitated children to build resilience yet in my own life, do I practice what I preach? As a parent and adult individual, am I resilient when challenges and conflicts arise?
Kids learn how to respond to stress by observing those around them do it. Their concrete, often black & white thinking will lead them to view how their parents & caregivers respond as the right way.
It's quite remarkable that so much of professional child development strategies and insights can apply to adults. Since I've made that personal realization, I am trying to be more aware of my own growth and my own responses. My idea of wholehearted parenting stems from recognizing in ourselves what is unhealthy and making active choices toward our own well-being. If we're not well, it inevitably seeps into our relationships and into our lives no matter how hard we try to keep it together.
The good news is that where ever you find yourself, whether you're not ready for facing personal challenges head on or in the midst of it already, you are never alone. Parenting a small human (or humans plural!) leaves you with precious little time for yourself. You are not alone in your financial struggles, in finding the energy to work through that nagging conflict with your spouse, or grieving the loss of your individuality. Being honest with yourself is a hard but good first step.
There are a lot of resources out there on resilience, but I wanted to highlight one that is specifically for children from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They lay out the 7 C's of Resilience as:
COMPETENCE - building up their sense of their ability to handle various situations
CONFIDENCE - feeling positively regarding their competence
CONNECTION - deep sense of belonging to loved ones & those around them
CHARACTER - developing a moral compass, a sense of what is wrong/right, good/bad
CONTRIBUTION - learning how to add and give back to the world around them
COPING - the ability to process, handle, and learn from stressors
CONTROL - understanding that they have the power to choose how they will respond to stress
Whether your kiddo (or you personally) have a temperament that is more prone to resilience or not, there is always something we can gain from stepping back to consider where might be and how we can make a small change toward developing more resilience.
I highly recommend following the link to their article for a deeper look into and understanding of the characteristics of resilience. I gained so much from it! I hope that in this busy holiday season that you can find some time for yourself and wish you all extra amounts of patience and presence for your kiddos!