Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cultivating resilience in childhood

I had a very happy childhood. I may not have realized it at the time, but it was: I lived in a safe neighborhood with lots of friends, we had family nearby, and we were very active in the community. Even after my parents divorced, I was a happy kid. And it may be because of their divorce that I had to grow up a little more and take on more responsibilities. In other words, I had to learn how to be more resilient.

But, as an adult, I realize that not everyone learns that resiliency lesson. There are plenty of people who blame their current circumstances on their parents. And while it is true that the situations we are living through in childhood help shape us, the way that we deal with them actually defines the type of person we become. Scientists are just now trying to determine why some people react to adverse childhood experiences (like separation from a parent) with bouts of mental illness and depression later on in life, while others become stronger adults because of it. In other words, they are studying vulnerability versus resilience.

So, that brings up a good question on how to cultivate positive characteristics like resilience, without going through the adverse experience part. I think there are ways to start small. For example, I think it is fine for children to lose at board games. My son hates losing, and sometimes he will even start to cry at us, but I think every loss helps him learn.

I also believe that my son should feel self pride. I do, of course, tell him when I am proud of him, but I love it when he says he is proud of himself when he accomplishes something for the first time.

Finally, I believe in the power of sleep away camps. How will children know what it is like to be away from home if you never let them leave your side? I have so many fond memories of camps when I was little, even though it was probably very hard for my parents to not know what I was up to for several weeks during the summer. (Or maybe I am wrong about that and they couldn't wait for the break.)

What I am trying to point out is that we need to teach our children to be resilient. Life is not always going to go their way, and as much as I like the magic of childhood, a little reality when they are young is better than a large scoop of it in adulthood.

How do you help teach your child to be resilient? Share your tips in the comments.

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