You know it’s tough being a kid, starting school, making friends, trying to get on with your brother or sister, wanting to be liked, making the right choices. Managing all these day-to-day challenges can be a tall order for any kid. It takes resilience. But how do kids become resilient? Are you born resilient? Do you acquire it? How can you help your child to be more resilient to cope with the stress and adversity of everyday life?
Back in November, I was interviewed by the fabulous Talya from Motherhood: The Real Deal about what it is like to raise adopted children. One of the questions Talya asked was what had I learned from this experience. One of my biggest learnings has been to understand my children’s resilience and how this can help them cope with what life will throw at them.
I have been trying to find out more about resilience. And I have discovered Big Bird can offer some support in helping your child to be more resilient.
Resilience. It’s more than a management buzz word
Resilience is more than the latest corporate management buzz word used to build ‘resilient teams’ to withstand and overcome adversity and crises in the workplace. You know the email server has gone down, we’ve run out of tea and coffee, the photocopier has gone bust! (I’m not missing those days!)
And it’s not about Bear Grylls being thrown in the outback, jungle swamps, using his sharp wits and SAS training to survive.
What is resilience?
Is it the capacity to overcome adversity?
I love this definition of resilience:
That meaning was coined by Professor Angie Hart who leads an organisation called Boing Boing.
Boing Boing is a pioneer in resilience therapy for children. They help children who have had a really tough start to life and give them mechanisms to become resilient, to beat the odds and change the odds of their lives.
We aren’t born resilient, we acquire it
As Angie describes it, we become resilient by being given a helping hand, someone, maybe a teacher, a youth leader they made a resilient move.
- They give us support
- They believe in us
- Help put our lives on a positive trajectory
This, in turn, helps us to make our own resilient moves and make positive choices.
Our resilient move for our children
If you are a regular follower of this blog you will know we adopted our kids. That was our resilient move.
But we have needed a lot of help from others around us to help build our kids resilience. I am calling this group of people – Team Resilient. And I want to say thank you.
Our Team Resilient – Thank you!
- To the school that noticed our children’s neglect, and helped to take them out of an unsafe home situation
- To the social workers, who tracked us down, saw our potential as the right family for our adopted children
- To the psychologist who helped my daughter understand that forever parents means forever and our love is unconditional
- To the teachers at our children’s school who saw beyond our children’s trauma, fear and anxiety, worked with them to bring out their very best
- To Place2Be, provided at my children’s school, that gave my children a creative outlet for their troubled emotions. They still have this skill and use it to express how they feel through art
- To my adoption agency, TACT, who provided 24 weeks of play therapy helping to give back years of lost nurture
Then we moved to France
For our kids, it was adversity of epic proportions. To them, it felt like the end of the world. Seriously what were we doing to them?
They left behind friends and family, moved to a new school in Paris, had to learn in French and make new friends speaking French.
But they used their resilience skills. And you know what?
They speak French, they have friends, they go to a French holiday playscheme, do swimming lessons in French, do their school lessons and homework in French. I’m blown away!
Thank you Team Resilient! We couldn’t have done this without you.
How Big Bird can help your child be more resilient
The Sesame Street gang have put together a resilience toolkit.
Little Children, Big Challenges helps kids build self-confidence, develop problem-solving skills and emotional strength to be more resilient and cope with everyday adversity.
There are tools for:
- Coping with the morning (some mornings in our house….baaadd!)
- Tackling something new (I could have done with this a year ago!)
- Activity printables (These are aimed at teachers but I am going to use these!)
And I think the toolkit is brilliant. I really wish I had found it before we moved to Paris because I could have really done with some child centred activities to help my kids cope with the pre-move anxiety, settling in and making friends.
Want to know more about how to help your child be more resilient?
Check out these articles
1. Karen Young, from Hey Sigmund, advises resilience needs relationships and increasing our kids’ exposure to people who care about them.
2. The Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University notes that learning to cope with manageable stress is critical for the developing resilience in children. Not all stress is bad, we need to take the opportunity to help our kids cope with stress and see this as a growth opportunity.
3. Learning from failure. According to Judy Willis MD, we all make mistakes and to start seeing these mistakes as an opportunity for the brain to build a bridge that will bring success in the future. When we make mistakes our brain rewires helping us to make a better choice the next time. It’s OK to get things wrong.
4. This in-depth article in The Atlantic is really interesting. It points to external factors that help the build resilience in our children and this starts early on in our kids’ lives, at infancy when our children use our responses to make sense of their world. Also, we have a big role to play in how we regulate our kids’ reaction to stress. A calm and measured approach by us will help our kids cope with strong emotions, stress and intense feeling even unpleasant ones.