Tapping Resilience in Ourselves and Our Kids During the Pandemic

Posted: September 9, 2020

In a current article for the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Abby Rosenberg discusses resilience.  She says she looked up its meaning and it read, "the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress."  Well, I guess 2020 qualifies us all for this definition!  

Dr. Rosenberg goes on to say that she questioned the word, "well" the definition.  "Who gets to say whether one is doing well or not?" she wondered.  She then clarified that "well" is too subjective, a little judgy, and not really helpful, but the word "adapting" was more descriptive of resilience.  

As you read this, look at all the ways you're expected to adapt, as school schedules and environments are so different from the norm, and changing almost daily.  

You may have already adapted to 100's of changes of which you are not aware.  Did you do it well?  Frankly, who cares?  You did it and you get to give yourself credit.  This needs to be the age of self-compassion, of letting go of judgment, not only for yourself, but for your friends and family.  Part of "We're all in this together" is forgiveness.  A big part.  

How do you build adaptation, or "deliberate resilience" into your family or your students?  Dr. Rosenberg says there are three parts involved: getting through it, gathering our resources for survival, and looking back.  First, we as adaptable humans get through the experience the best we can.  We look around and see what could possible aid us in navigating the crisis, using personal drive and desire, social connections, and a sense of "there's some growth in this and I'm going to allow it."  Then we look back to notice, "Wow, I did that without even realizing it!"  

So how do we deliberately give ourselves, our children and our students hope that the pandemic won't bring us down?  Share stories of survival with your young people.  For pre-schoolers, "The Little Engine That Could" by Watty Piper is a classic tale of determination in adversity.  For elementary students, "Amazing Grace" by Mary Hoffman will get the conversation rolling.  For middle schoolers, "The Girl Who Thought in Pictures" by Julia Finley Mosca, about Temple Grandin's journey with autism, is a great start.  "Fast Talk on a Slow Track" by Rita Williams-Garcia is recommended for teens.  Many other choices are available online for all age groups.   

Share your own resilience stories with your kids or students, as well.  You may not even be alert to them, but they're there if you look closely. Sharing the "looking back" on the strengths you developed to survive emotionally and physically can help you recall yourself as a powerful adapter, even as you give your kids hope.  

When a child feels overwhelmed by expectations and dramatic change, listen deeply to the feelings being expressed, and try to avoid using logic in the low moments.  This connecting will  help you to be his or her "resource" in tough times.  "You wish school was the same as before."  "You are sad because you miss your friends and can't play with them outside."  "You feel like it's too hard to get the work done when the teacher is on Zoom instead of in person. "  When you play this valuable part in fostering resilience in your child, you feel better, too.

My heart goes out to you as you navigate the huge waves of change with your young people.  Forgive yourself, dig up your own past resilience, do things "well-enough," and share stories of victory over adversity with your children.  As we all know, "This too shall pass."  And perhaps we can look back and see that we've all done some amazing adapting, which helps our kids know they can, too.    

If you need help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for all the details.

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