Teach Resilience to Children

When my daughter was two years old, she was walking across the street in a cross walk with my wife and son. They were all hand in hand on their way to lunch. Then a car started to turn left into the cross walk to beat the oncoming traffic. The driver did not even look left as he was focused on the cars coming from the other direction. Before my family knew it, my daughter was swept out from wife’s hand to the top of the hood of the vehicle. When the driver finally realized he had hit her, he slammed on the breaks and launched her another 50 feet onto the road.

She was rushed to closest trauma hospital. After tests done in the emergency department, she was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit for three days. She suffered a concussion and it took her about three weeks to be back to her baseline but the rest of us still struggle even after 15 years.

Resiliency is one’s ability to bounce back or press forward from adversity, trauma, tragedy or extreme stress. The question is, can one learn to be resilient? Although my daughter’s recovery was nothing short of miraculous, the example of resilience was demonstrated more by my son and wife. My son was four years old and struggled for several months afterward to simply cross the street. He would clench his mother’s hand and hide behind her leg to have 100 percent assurance that the coast was clear. He demonstrated resilience as he would take the step forward into any street following his sister’s accident. My wife, to this day, still occasionally clenches my hand before entering into a cross walk but once again demonstrates her resilience by taking that step.

Here are just a few simple ways to build resilience in your children. As demonstrated in the photo above of my son washing a car, children need opportunity. They need a chance to participate in activities like service, volunteering, chores, art, music, sports, work, etc. These opportunities will stretch them in ways that they have typically not encountered before. This will often lead to frustrations and discouragements which is followed by opportunity for families and friends to lend their support and encourage them to keep working at a skill in spite of roadblocks.

Children need examples. The other photo above is of my daughter and her late great grandmother. Help your children to have positive experiences with you but also others who are a good influence. Grandparents, friends, teachers are all people in a child’s life that can influence them for the better. In addition, they often have their own experience in being resilient and can empathize with and guide the children.

Lastly, maintain a functioning barometer. I reached out to some colleagues at Thrive Pediatrics to help explain this concept. With their permission I share the following.

One colleague was noticing that his son was frustrated with his performance in sports. His expectations of where he should be in his skills was much higher than what was realistic for him in learning a new sport. The parents discerned this and helped him to take a different approach. They focused on activities that helped him build his confidence and surrounded him with friends that did not shame his efforts. The new approach strengthened him and his new resilience helped him continue to work toward a goal.

Another colleague’s husband was deployed 10 days after 9/11. The children did what they could to put their best foot forward and have courage but their mother could see that they needed help beyond their own capability. She provided added support and strength to them during this frightening time for their family. Children need us to maintain a functioning barometer. We need to be involved in their lives so we can recognize when the pressure is building too high or too fast. This will then allow us to intervene at appropriate times.

We are certainly observing our children build their resilience during this global virus outbreak. We can take courage ourselves and strengthen our own resilience just by observing the incredible strength of a child through times of turmoil. We hope you are all safe. We are here at Thrive Pediatrics for you and in spite of a global outbreak continue to care for Idaho’s future, today.