What does resilience really mean?
My superpower is making the complicated, simple.
So, in regard to a big concept such as resilience, it’s easy to get caught up in the bigness of it. It can mean so many things to so many people.
Here’s an example from the American Psychological Association:
“Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioural flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”
Blah, blah, blah.
While I agree with it and it makes sense, it’s also wildly big. Too big to see what that looks like in a day-to-day real-world situation.
Before I go any further, this is what resilience is NOT.
- Pushing down or ignoring emotions.
- Toughening up / hardening up.
- Being told to just get over it or get on with it.
- Being told that other people have it much harder than you, so stop crying and get back to it.
- Being told to always be positive.
- Shaming anyone for their feelings.
So now that I’ve got all that out of the way….
What does resilience mean for me?
The basic version:
- Learning from mistakes.
- Seeing the opportunities in failure, disappointments, and rejection.
What does that look like in a daily situation?
- Allowing the person to sit and become familiar with uncomfortable feelings including rejection, embarrassment, failure, disappointment etc.
- Someone fully supports them, someone they love and respect, so they feel safe to explore these feelings and have the space to put them in perspective.
- That then allows them to see the situation in a new light and any positives.
Example: (Ok It might be a bit lame, but you’ll get the general idea)
A child comes home feeling down because they didn’t get picked for the sports team. The parent supports their child through the big feelings, acknowledges how they are feeling, and they don’t try to fix anything or brush the feelings off.
After some time and conversation, the child should be able to have some new thoughts and perspective which can then allow them to see what positives can come from not being picked for the team.
Another way to help change a child’s mindset is to encourage them to think of something they’re grateful for. Another idea is to encourage them to think of a happy memory or past holiday experience as this can help them move through their big feelings and unhelpful thoughts. With gentle guidance and repetition this then can become a simple habit they can use at any time.
Now obviously every situation is different, and every child is different but what I’ve outlined can be a simple starting point that all parents can use with their kids.
Let’s get really crunchy.
My expanded version of resilience – this will build long term resilience in any child.
- They feel safe and loved.
- They are aware of their thoughts.
- They know and understand their feelings.
- They feel safe to talk about their feelings.
- They understand how their thoughts affect their feelings.
- They know how to change what they think about to change their feelings and perspectives.
- They can use creativity and curiosity to expand their inner and outer worlds.
All these are intrinsic values that help build a strong inner sense of self for the child – like having a foundation for a house.
So instead of completely focussing on external validation such as academic success, merit certificates, accolades, number of friends, social status, and sporting achievements – which are always wildling changing, they can develop an inner sense of self-worth that is less likely to change.
Intrinsic values help them ride the wilds of the external world and enjoy all that it offers without being too attached to it.
“I didn’t get picked for the footy team. Yeah, it sucks and I’m disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world. Maybe if I keep practising, I’ll get better and try for the team next semester.”
That’s what it can look like when supported by the parents.
But who supports the parents?
I make building resilience simple.