As a parent, I admit that most of the times I am quick to be the Mother Lion that shields and protects her cubs. Our most natural instinct is to never let our kids face sadness, failure, loneliness and more in their lives. However, these challenging situations are inevitable when they grow up. Therefore, it is also our job as parents to raise resilient kids who know how to face these challenges and overcome them in their lives. Our children will experience disappointment, frustration and failure; criticism and disapproval; and/or exclusion/bullying by peers etc. What are the ways we can help them get on their own two feet without solving all their problems for them? I do truly believe that resilience can be taught from young and we should do all we can to impart this important survival characteristic in our children. I won’t be writing from a psychological viewpoint on how to raise resilient kids because there is already a multitude of articles out there with all the points. I will write from experience of what has happened in a few years of our children’s lives and how we use practicality to teach them the best way we can.
1) You are special
Josiah, 10, does not have great confidence in himself. I see myself in him sometimes. When I was young, I really hated being on stage and I have a very terrible stage fright. I had some really bad stage experiences, where I once tripped and once I was so nervous I shook so much and everyone laughed at me. When Josiah was really young, I sent him for a public speaking course. At the end of the class, every child has to go up and speak. Unfortunately, he broke down and cried because of the fear. Finally, after some encouragement, he managed to finish his presentation albeit shakily. It was a bad experience for him, however, we continue to encourage him that he is special and didn’t need to be the same as others. He can do it his own way and do not have to be afraid of others laughing at him. Thankfully, he never gave up being on stage. He continued to do a violin recitation once and even agreed to perform with his friends in school for a dance and a song. Watching his performance made me so proud as he made the decision not to quit by himself. We do not force him, judge him, or push him in a certain way, but with positive words, we showed him it’s ok to fall, but it’s more important to get up by yourself and move on.
2) You are loved
Sometimes, it hurts our hearts too when Josiah comes home and tells about how everyone wants to be the friend of another kid but not him. I guess it is natural that children will be drawn to that cool kid in school and he’s not that one. He might say it with a smile but we know he can be hurt too. Therefore, we always let him know that he is loved in his family. In our family, he is precious and like a warrior who goes out and gets shot by arrows and slashes from the sword, he can always come home and be healed from his wounds. In his home, we will give him all the time he needs to get better and strong again, emotionally and mentally to face his battles. Well, it’s not as bad as I made it be, but we try to have open communication always. I think if we are always scolding and pointing out his mistakes, it will make him shut down and never share his other problems with us. So, love is the only way.
3) You can do it
Most times, we get frustrated not with the things happening around us, but with ourselves. We are actually better than we think we are, it’s all in the mindset. Whenever Josiah doesn’t think he can do something, we let him know that he can do it if he tries. In the last few years, he had tried some physically challenging activities like rock climbing, flying fox, power kids run and more. In all these, he started out excited but afraid. After trying it out, he will be super satisfied and overwhelmed with the fact that he can do it after all. Sometimes, as parents, we somehow know our children’s capabilities but if we limit them according to our perception, they will never get to know their resilience and ability to overcome something. So, for us, we just let them do it and let them know, they can do it. Even if you fail, it’s ok you can pick yourself up and try again. In fact, in one of his run competitions, Josiah actually falls while riding the bike. We didn’t run to him to pick him, but we watch from a distance and let him run the whole race by himself. Even though he came near to the last, we cheered him anyway.
Role-playing is definitely one of the best ways to teach resilience. Why do I say that? It is a safe yet educational environment involving real kids and scenarios. For example, when Josiah plays in a place like KidZania, he can become any role such as the supermarket cashier, fireman, judge, policeman, deliveryman and more. There, they will be given tasks and problems, cases to solve and physical activities that they need to complete by themselves. The good thing about KidZania is, parents are not allowed to help them so it’s a great place for helicopter parents to force themselves to let go and let their kids make their own decisions. Some tasks are quite challenging, like the CSI task where they need to find the clues and solve the puzzles. They need communication skills with other children. This really opens his mind to learn how to handle different characters and work together with others who are not his friends from school. There are just too many opportunities to learn resilience there, that is why we keep going back and one visit is never enough.