Behaviour & Emotions

3 ways we can help our kids grow in resilience

Parenting Place Resilience

Lockdown has its challenges. It certainly took me a while to cycle through my big feelings this time around – resistance, denial, anger, sadness and acceptance – and only then was I able to get into a new rhythm and find myself a bit calmer.

Lockdown has taken quite a bit from us, especially in terms of freedom and the choices we can make. We live with uncertainty and some of us have become fixated with daily checking of numbers and percentages – especially if you live in Auckland! Our jobs are harder to do and I really miss my colleagues and my spacious office desk.

But I think there’s also some give with the take. I do see an invitation sitting alongside lockdown’s restrictions.

I work with parents and get to hear about their typical daily challenges. I also get to hear some of parents’ deepest hopes and dreams for their children. Often, what they share with me is a strong hope that their children will be resilient and learn to manage life’s tough times.

You’ve probably already guessed what I’m about to say... Yes, it’s true – I really do think lockdown and Covid-related challenges are a handy opportunity to guide our children on their journey towards lifelong resilience. Here are three ways we can give our kids – and their growing resilience – a helping hand:

  1. Disappointment comes with new possibilities
  2. Resilience needs roles models
  3. Stories from the past, for the future

1. Disappointment comes with new possibilities

Struggle, adversity and disappointment are hard, but they can occur on a daily basis, and to anyone. As parents, we can invest a lot of energy and emotion in trying to alleviate or defer challenges and rescue our children from tough times. I know we do this with a good heart – because we want children to be happy and carefree. However, I think that there is a risk that we unwittingly communicate to our kids that we are not comfortable with letting those big emotions, like worry, sadness, boredom and disappointment, just sit and be present in our children’s lives (and also in our own lives). We forget to recognise how normal these uncomfortable feelings are, and how they’re actually quite helpful in the bigger picture. If we are afraid of big emotions, our children may also be.

We carry the disappointment but we refresh the page with new possibilities. Our children get to see that when one thing doesn’t work out, there might just be another way.

When a child misses a birthday party because of lockdown, it sure is tough. But we also get a chance to show that we can do parties a different way – and we show them how we can be resourceful when life doesn’t go the way we hoped. We blow up the balloons, we make the cake, we play some party games in the lounge and maybe we play charades with our cousins on Zoom. We carry the disappointment but we refresh the page with new possibilities. Our children get to see that when one thing doesn’t work out, there might just be another way.

2. Resilience needs role models

Our kids naturally look to the big people in their lives for reassurance and guidance. It may feel like a big ask to the grown-ups, but children really want to see what resilience looks like. How does Mum handle the stress of an increased workload and zero alone time? What does Dad do when his plans for getting through his work are met with loads of interruptions? What about the way Uncle Mike handles the fact that he can’t work at all, or what Grandad does when he can’t buy the materials he needs to do finish a project in the garden?

The big people take the lead and create a sense that we will get through this. We are all tempted to throw wobblies, pass the blame, bury ourselves in our work or ignore our need to take enough breaks and go for enough walks, but we have sets of eyes watching us and learning from us. As I said, I really feel this is a valuable invitation here – not to pretend it’s a walk in the park but to authentically show our kids how we reset ourselves in difficult times. We let them hear us and see us handle the tricky stuff.

There is a valuable invitation here – not to pretend it’s a walk in the park but to authentically show our kids how we reset ourselves in difficult times.

3. Stories from the past, for the future

Stories are so powerful – especially real-life stories of survival! In life’s tough moments, we can tell our kids stories of how we got through hard stuff before (maybe like the last lockdown). Our brains like a bit of certainty and pattern and when we revisit what we did last time – how we figured out how to do home-learning, how we baked bread instead of buying it, how we sent messages to the neighbours, played happily on our own or created fun within the four walls of our home – we cheer ourselves on with a sense of “we did it before – let’s do it again.”

Sometimes we need to tell stories about how our grandparents or great grandparents (or even further back!) got through hard stuff. Previous generations have navigated wars and pandemics and great depressions before, and their remarkable survival stories offer us profound inspiration (and perspective!). Many of our ancestors even said farewell to their homelands – undertaking a journey that was long, with seasickness that was terrible – and yet they made it, arriving in Aotearoa with not a lot besides courage, bravery and determination. Kids love to be inspired by others and we learn a lot from the lives of those who have gone before us.

Some children are naturally more resilient than others – it’s just part of how they’re wired. Others need more support and encouragement, but it is well worth welcoming this wonderful trait of resilience at this particularly challenging time. The benefits for our children are both now, and in their future.

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale

Jenny Hale is our Senior Family Coach and we’ve been lucky enough to have her on our team for over 20 years. She’d love to raise free-range chickens, write children’s books and perhaps even take up horse-riding again.


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