Let’s set the stage – 

We all know that we are living in a time of rapid change. It is rushing at high speeds straight toward us, ready to overpower us. It’s hard to prepare for something that we know so little about . . . what might be next. This post will attempt to address one proven way to enhance our own and our children’s chances, not only of surviving but also of excelling in this perilous time.

Increased Stressors: Adults and children can sometimes feel overwhelmed by the stresses of what is now considered “the new normal”. The times of the past, of being able to take all the time you need to figure something out, seem to be gone. People seem to be always on the go. We all have tight schedules, extracurricular activities, deadlines, projects to be done and greater expectations to meet. We hardly ever take the time to actually stop and smell the roses, and more importantly, get to know our children.

Many of today’s children are experiencing loneliness amidst the most connectedness ever to be had in history. Not to mention the results of families who start out one-parent or are torn asunder from stress and selfishness, (1 in 3 children in the U.S. live without their father as the number of two-parent households fell by 1.2 million in 10 years).

There are exploited and neglected children and what seems like more bullying than ever before, with serious repercussions. Being either a bully or the victim of bullying has been found to increase the risk of engaging in self-harm, as well as suicidal thoughts and actions, in both boys and girls.

More children per capita are taking their own lives than ever before. It is commonly acknowledged within the field of suicide research and prevention that official statistics underestimate the ‘true’ number of suicides in any given year. In April 2016, the CDC released data showing that the suicide rate in the United States had hit a 30-year high, and later, in June 2018, it released further data showing that the rate has continued to increase.

There is more of an awareness of illnesses, financial worries, and addictions. We have destruction, murder, and conflict right at our doorstep, in our streets, schools, and places of worship.

Weather Destruction: There seems to be more and more weather events that are devastating disruptions including years of wildfires, long-standing droughts, destructive floods, hurricanes, and tornados. And yes, although these have happened in the past, they seem to be happening more frequently, with mightier ferociousness. Then add the financial and mental stresses of these natural disasters are staggering.

Moral Challenges: Daily we see moral values slammed against the wall, disregarded, and mocked. Violence, shootings, wanton destructions, and serial killing are all symptoms of not having a full daily dose of morals being taught to society in the beginning of their educational processes and beyond. How can you know what is or is not moral, when you have never been given a clear example? History is crystal clear about what happens to societies that abandon their values.

Loss of Freedoms: The U.S. Constitution is hanging by a thread. There are many who are actively working against the Liberties and Freedoms promised therein. There are many who have been led down the primrose path by being taught that the Rule of Law is antiquated (and needs to be replaced by a Fabian Socialist ideal) and that we just need to do what feels right at the time. We have all seen judges step outside of their judicial bounds by attempting, sometimes successfully, to “make laws” instead of simply determining an existing law’s constitutionality, or by issuing judgments that are outside the stated bounds of the law. Or most recently, the ignoring of the laws and civilized society as a whole, daring others who wish to maintain the peace to tolerate their egregious acts or take the steps to work against their usurpations upon that once protected liberty.

What can we do to protect our children from falling prey to the despair of all of this?

Our Natural Man: From natural disasters to economic meltdowns the world over, from wars and riots abroad to tragic shootings and civil unrest closer to home, this year brought to light the increasing complexity of the world in which we raise our children. Our natural instinct as teachers, parents, and caregivers is to protect children from excessive hardship; yet we know instinctively that what we all really need to do is to give them the tools to respond to everyday challenges with a clear head.  Of course, this is sometimes easier said than done. To help our children, we first need to develop a resilient mindset ourselves.

Finding the Source of Hope Amongst It All

We can’t stand in front of our children at every turn with arms spread wide to protect them from each hazard and menace. If we were to do so, we would be removing from them the ability to face adversity and rise to the occasion as all of us need to have ample opportunities to do. The threats are diverse and numerous, and sometimes the risks come from unsuspected places.  The potential for strength, happiness, and greatness lies within all children. We know that we can’t really change all of the challenges they will face during life’s journey but what we can do is give them stable life skills so that the tests and trials they face will not be able to break them. In short, we can build their resilience . . . the way they respond to life.

First of all, we can give them the foundation to where all hope springs forth. If you do not know who your Maker and Creator may be and seek out a personal connection and relationship with Him Who Has Ransomed each one of us, you are cutting off the single greatest source of hope, love, and joy. Seek and experience what the Spiritual has in store for you, so you can put down guiding lights and even show the way to those who come after you. This faith and knowledge is the difference in all of this, the sure foundation to build all the rest upon.

As parents and grandparents, one of the most powerful things we can do is instill a resilient character and attitude within our sons, daughters, grandchildren, and those within our scope of influence . . . to arm them against things that would harm them or tear them down. We don’t want to remove all roadblocks and challenges even if we could. A little bit of stress is life-giving and helps them develop the power and strength they need to flourish. Strengthening them towards healthy living is about nurturing them and teaching them the strategies to deal with adversity. Most importantly, we should model and teach them how to conquer trials and then move forward with confidence without reverting to fear, or resorting to intimidation or anger . . . in other words, to live by a decent moral compass. That’s a tall order but it’s within our reach, especially if we begin a purposeful path early in life.

What is “Resilience”?: Once we establish what constitutes true resilience, it becomes easier to understand how we can advance in that area and assist our children in becoming happier more well-rounded, resilient individuals in spite of the hardness of life. Not that our world will necessarily change but we will change and become more equipped to meet life and even thrive in it.  We and they can become stronger than any hard situation we, or they, may be called upon to face.

We know that resilience means bouncing back from failure and misfortune. It also means taking risks to grow, persisting in the face of obstacles, and working hard on skills and solutions that don’t come easily. Resilience means not telling ourselves that we’re failing or that life is too hard but rather that we’re learning and can shine in the face of challenges. It means overcoming. It means getting up after disappointments and failure and trying again.

Studies have shown that resilient people seem to see life more clearly and therefore seem better able to set goals and understand how to reach them. Speaking generally, the most successful people aren’t necessarily the smartest but rather the most resilient. They are the most willing to learn from both succeeding and falling down. . . and fall we will!  Resilience, coupled with faith, makes us more interested in learning than in impressing or blaming others. It is usually our failures and being open to learning from them, that makes us better able to handle setbacks . . . that make us better, stronger, and happier people. When children are resilient, they are braver, more curious, more adaptable, confident and more able to extend their positive reach into the world.

The 8 traits that help build resilience:

  1. Competence
  2. Confidence
  3. Connection
  4. Character
  5. Contribution
  6. Coping
  7. Control (self)
  8. Core Values. It is the linchpin of all the others.

Practice Makes Permanent – 

The most effective way to gift our children with resilience is to show them what it looks and acts like. We are born with the capacity for resilience. However, resilience is a conscious decision that we all must make. We must first decide, then work on developing and strengthening it throughout our lives. Science has proven that growing our core resilience begins at the earliest possible moment of life.

  • When parents cope well with everyday stressors and push forward to overcome daily obstacles, they are showing their children how to do the same. Bouncing back from small failures makes it easier to move ahead when larger challenges come along. Our children are always watching what we do and how we respond to situations; so start early because tiny ones are watching and learning and may eventually mimic what they see, good or bad.
  • As parents, we may experience a need for change in our parenting techniques. Don’t be afraid to admit that you’ve blown a situation… we all do that. Be a resilient adult and try again. Don’t be afraid to allow your children to see your foibles. Acknowledging our own mistakes, owning up to them, and changing course shows children that mistakes happen but that it’s not the end of the world…we get up, brush ourselves off and move forward.

We need to pay close attention to our children. Listen to them with empathy and love. Listen for the source of their anxiety or fear, not for the symptom of it. We all know what that feels like if we aren’t truly heard. If we half-listen they will stop talking. Pay attention, look at them, and let them have your full attention. Let them feel and know that their thoughts really matter to you.

  • Of course, we should be empathetic when others have setbacks and failures, especially our children. Allowing the time for their true feelings to be expressed freely without jumping in and trying to make it all better, or telling them that they “should not feel that way”, is a crucial part of helping them move forward. Never deny their feelings. Don’t judge their words. Just listen and allow them to express themselves. If you don’t they will learn not to entrust their feelings to you! Allowing them to talk a problem all the way through, while you simply listen with understanding attention, will increase their feelings of worth and of being loved, understood and valued. They can usually resolve their own frustrations anyway after speaking their feelings. Doing this will increase their resilience and will bind them to the one who has made them feel understood. It may also give them the confidence to trust their own problem-solving abilities over time.

We cannot shelter our kids from the world. We do them a severe injustice if we try to, and shortcircuit their learning and growth leaving them with heavier issues to deal with if we had just let them experience it for themselves. We turn them into “snowflakes” easily “triggered” by “micro-aggressions” unable to cope with the world as they find it, and their unreasonable demands to conform to their version of it when we shelter them from true reality. The pain and learning curve of those that this has happened to will be immense and overpowering for some.

Let us do the opposite brethren, and give those opportunities that our parents allowed us to experience. For hardships have happened in every generation, in every society and people. It is how we deal with them and move through them that gives us the quality of life we wish to have.

In the following parts, we will discuss in more depth the 8 ways to build that Resilience in ourselves and how to teach it to others. Stay tuned!