Times like these remind us of the importance of resilience, which is defined in part as “the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, [or] adversity.”
As apt as that definition might seem, I actually like the next part better: “the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched.”
There’s no doubt our communities, our economy, our very lives have been bent, compressed, and stretched. We all desire to return to our original form as soon as possible.
I believe we will. I also believe there will be other events in our lifetimes, and certainly in our children’s lifetimes, that will test us just as much, if not more. It won’t be enough to bounce back once. We’re going to have to bounce back over and over.
Given that reality, one of the best things we can do as parents is teach our children to be resilient. A certain amount of resilience may be inherent in the human spirit, but we can certainly build on that, equipping our kids to weather any storm. This crisis provides the perfect opportunity.
The first step is to exemplify resilience. That includes not complaining about things you can’t change, not blaming others for your situation, maintaining a outward show of optimism (however you might be feeling), and doggedly going about the business of living.
It’s fine to occasionally show your vulnerability, to let your kids know that you, too, sometimes feel sad and depressed and it’s okay for them to feel that way. You just can’t dwell on the negative or allow them to do so.
The more they see you striving to move forward with hope, despite your fears and uncertainties, the more they’ll be inspired to do the same.
The second step is to actively teach resilience. It’s not enough just to model it — you also have to explain to your kids what you’re doing, why, and what you expect of them.
Where appropriate, use phrases like “that’s just the way it is” and “there’s nothing we can do about it.” Make sure they understand that life must go on despite the difficult circumstances and invite them to explore solutions rather than focus on problems. Encourage them, too, with assurances that there is still much in life to look forward to.
Finally, you can teach your children to be resilient by expecting them to be resilient. When they bemoan the fact that life is not now as they would wish it to be, commiserate for a moment, then ask, “So what are you going to do about it?” Perhaps the two of you together can work toward making the best of a bad situation.
As you follow these steps, you will raise children who will not be defeated by whatever life sends their way. There are few greater gifts you could give them.