Until recently, it was believed resilience is an inborn strength. Some people have it and others lack it. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fortunately we can educate ourselves and bring up our children, knowing that resilience can be built and honed.
The unfortunate thing, however, is that no matter how much we talk or teach about it, resilience is put into practice when we are afflicted with change, adversity and hardship. Difficulty causes pain and frustration. So don’t get me wrong, resilience is not about preventing problems, it is not even about being happy at all times, it is simply about teaching our children to bounce back after a setback.
I won’t apologise for finding an opportunity amidst this continued crisis for us parents to work on the development of this life skill.
Common concern in such a discussion is while we get what resilience is, how do we really demonstrate and encourage it. What are the steps? How do I know if my child is becoming resilient.
As a psychologist-mom, I have some ideas that could work.
We need to stay as close as we can to what is real: Children need authenticity and comfort to be who they are. Performance anxiety, social consciousness or image worries take away from their ability to bounce back from problems. While it is hard to see the connection, accepting their unique strengths and growth areas can help build resilience.
Yielding to challenges and saying we are finding it hard to cope: We believe that sticking it out, persisting or fighting back is resilience. However, accept that falling is not a bad thing; that we do not need to win every battle, and that we cannot possibly solve every problem in an ideal way. This makes way for exposure to the problem, wrestling with it and acknowledging areas to work on can help us grow and adapt better. I recommend actively telling our kids that at times yielding to challenges helps us.
A fixed mindset compromises not just resilience but also on growth: On the other hand a flexible person is willing to adapt, accommodate, learn, grow and thus survive. Demonstrating and encouraging flexibility in our daily lifestyle, aiming for our children to build the same can significantly help coping.
Humility is a powerful life tool that helps survival: I love the quote “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less”. Being humble helps to learn, to bend, to be less arrogant, and thus more open to receiving, building trust with others and facilitating relationships. These are some key aspects in leadership and personal development.
It’s alright to stand up, limp, and run again when ready: Taking away the pressure for performing and achieving after a setback is necessary. Absorption of the value and lessons learnt are more important and if a child wants to take time in doing so, by all means allow for it.
Optimism is an attitude that is irreplaceable in building resilience: Today as we stand at the end of one entire year of a raging pandemic and enter into another with ambiguity and uncertainty, now more than ever optimistic thinking, centred on hope and coping, is needed. We need to approach it, knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel, hoping that dreams can come true, and having faith will help not just with coping but also utilising this pain to the fullest, in what I call “the real assessments”
Shwetambara Sabharwal is a Mumbai based psychologist, psychotherapist and a mother of two.