As adults, we know nothing is guaranteed and that change is inevitable. While we may be disappointed, many of us make the most of it and move on trusting that God is still in control. However, the slightest shift in a child’s life, especially when it’s not something they would choose, can feel catastrophic. A new school, new friend group, a teacher or coach they don’t like, or getting cut from the team can send them into a tailspin.
We can prepare our children for the inevitable twists and turns they will experience by helping them to learn to develop resilience.
Resiliency helps kids navigate unavoidable struggles, triumphs, and the adversities of childhood and adolescence. Resilient kids become resilient adults who can thrive in the face of life’s trials.
When my kids feel helpless, the first thing I want to do is fix what’s broken. Anybody with me on that? But if I am not careful, I can create a culture in my home of making sure my kids are always comfortable, and never stressed, or pushed to excel, or faced with troubles that can help them grow. It may feel loving to stay one step ahead of the obstacles our kids may face; however, a parent’s job isn’t to be there for their kids all the time. It’s to teach them how to problem-solve and prepare them for adult life on their own.
Here are a few ways we can equip our kids to navigate change and uncertainty:
- Create opportunities to problem-solve. By resisting the urge to provide all the answers we give our kids space to come up with their own. We can act as their coach and ask open-ended questions that will allow them to think creatively and consider what works and what doesn’t.
- Allow natural consequences. Understanding cause and effect is a necessary life skill. It can be painful to watch our kids make mistakes, but sometimes it’s the most efficient way for them to learn. If they don’t go to sports practice, they’ll likely sit on the bench for the next game. Or if their favorite shirt or dress doesn’t make it in the hamper, it may not be clean for the school dance.
- Avoid eliminating all risk. Giving kids age-appropriate freedom helps them learn their limits. It is natural to want to keep our kids safe all the time, but by doing so, we rob them of the thrill of being brave and trying something new. Instead, we can focus on teaching them the essential skills they need to succeed.
- Help them manage their emotions. Emotions are real and not something that can be avoided. But, we can help our kids learn how to manage them appropriately. As parents, we can validate how our kid feels and empathize. Then, we can help them think through what they’re going to do next. We can show them how to give themselves a “timeout” during which they can journal, pray, and share with God how they’re feeling.
- Share stories. Stories not only develop children’s literacy but they convey values, beliefs, and attitudes that help inform children’s perceptions of reality. Books like Allie’s Bayou Rescue, by Missy Robertson, Mia Robertson, and Jill Osborne, teach kids how to anticipate change and problem solve through the characters they meet in the story.Twelve-year-old Allie Carraway lives in the Louisiana Bayou. Thanks to her asthma, a potential move, and the arrival a new family member, who happens to be a 12-year-old boy, Allie has the opportunity to grow as she navigates change and uncertainty. Along with her cousins, Kendall, Ruby, and Lola, she creates an initiation for Hunter that includes frogs, hunting, a blackout, and a scary shed rumored to be the place where a mysterious long-lost uncle disappeared. The kids face unfamiliar obstacles to bring their family back together.
- Prepare them for change. When possible, it is helpful to anticipate the future. If you know that your child’s schedule or routine is going to change, let them know ahead of time. Discuss together what they can expect and what it looks like for them practically.
The truth is, though, that we can’t say one thing and do another. We have to model resilience ourselves and we can do this by being ready for anything and not getting bent out of shape when things don’t turn out how we’d like them to.
When kids are resilient, they’re able to handle whatever comes their way. The inevitable twists and turns they’ll face won’t cause them to doubt themselves or question their faith but rather navigate change and uncertainty with confidence.
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How have you tried to help your children deal with adversity? What’s worked and what hasn’t? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!