How to Help Your Child With Resiliency

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

Typically running for that glass of wine or racing to get the best seat on the couch with the best blanket is what I like to consider my favourite form of exercise but did you know that you can take your kids to the gym? Not the liquid lunch kind but the Mental Gym.. the first one will get you a first-class ticket to being arrested and the second will get you some of the things I'll outline below.

I was lucky enough to speak at a Resiliency Summit last week and it really got me thinking and planning about our kids' futures. Being trained as a social worker and then working with kids and youth for almost a decade has helped me see things from their perspective. But, who is talking about their resiliency now?

Bouncing Balls and Bouncing Back, Kids Got This

For the first time, ever our kids are facing situations that none of us have ever dealt with before! Being isolated from friends during summer break, being fear mongered about all the places they thought were safe and now have to wear Hasmat suits to enter. So, how do we get them ready for this and not jump in the pool with the media, politicians, or our own insecurities?

I remember being a brand new 24-year-old social worker (20 years ago, yikes!!) … the University of Life had kicked the crap out of me and taught me lots already but what every parent wanted to know in every school district I worked in was:

"BUT how many kids do you have?"

Touche. But the thing I found was that what most kids need and want (and everyone for that matter) is to be listened to and heard. It's one of my Superpowers: Listening Authentically.

Our Deepest Fears - Our Light is There

I heard stories of suicide (in grade 6!), abuse, cutting, horrible self-talk and esteem. But I also heard stories of inner strength, never giving up, getting back up again, belief in self and healing. I worked with the underdogs, kids born into addiction, crime, generations of sexual trauma… soul crumpling kinda stories. It was their fight that resonated with my fight in life that made me realize we ALL have that light inside… no matter how far it gets buried.

And then I had two kids of my own… and I vowed to have them tell different stories. I want my kids to be little. I let them play and be silly. I, like most parents I assume, want my kids to have a worry/stress-free childhood… fair?

But life happens. And that's ok. I always said to my Jr High kids… the struggles are where we earn the feathers to our wings. How big are yours and how high can you Soar??

Life Happens

As my daughter grew up I started to see a mini-me. And my heart literally broke. I was that kid that needed to be perfect, longed to fit in, high stress… and I wanted something different for her. When she was 7 one of her dearest cousins died from Ewing's Sarcoma, Thea was only 8. When we broke the news to Aila she literally crumpled into a tiny heap in our living room and bawled for what felt like forever. I couldn't protect her heart.

My kids now have a Dad who deploys every 12 weeks for work 10,000 kilometres away in Africa to de-mobilize bombs and makes it safer for families over there.. fighting a quiet ISIS war that gets zero media attention. In the 3 weeks, he's home we overload on board games and movies and dad-dates and time travelling and monkey whispers. You name it just to cram in 3 months of memories. But at the airport there are tears. Both when he arrives home and when he slowly works his way through the departure process and we hang out for every painful and grateful last second.

And? They are doing AMAZING. Even tonight on our car ride to Jiu-Jitsu, Aila said to me how surprised she was that this first 18 months has gone "surprisingly fast" and that she envisioned "she would never make it" when we first discussed Africa as an option.

Can Kids Build Muscles Too?

So how is she making it so Awesome-ly (my new coined word, by the way)? What are the ways kids fight back and build their resilience muscles?

Best news? It doesn't all fall on you. Your children need other relationships. Your children need increased exposure to other support systems.

Thinking like the glass is half full. What is left and how I am happy for that VS what's not there and what am I lacking.

Peek-a-Boo, I See You! You have an official stalker!! Kids learn by imitation. It isn’t about our fall but it is about our RISE. Get back on the BIKE!!!

Play!!! Here are a few ideas to help in the play department.

  • 15-minute FAST system. This is child-directed play. Maximizing our time together for families with busy workloads.

  • Board games

  • Exercise together

The 4-letter-words:

  1. HELP - The hardest word in the dictionary. Be a role model and ask for it too. Your kids need to see you ask for help.

  2. COPE - Telling your kids, “you got this, I believe in you”

  3. EARS - You have 2 of them… actually Listen!!! Don't try to fix their problems. Allow them to find a solution that seems feasible to them.

  4. RISK - Help them take some risks. Allow them to step outside their comfort zone. By not following your fear, you get the biggest rewards.

DOWN - Put the phone and technology away and connect with each other. This is needed more than ever.

LOVE - Unconditionally. Remind them any time that you can.

HOPE - Show each other a sense of tomorrow. Acknowledge that today may have been tough but tomorrow is a brand new day. There will always be challenges but by teaching your child to have hope, you give them a brighter future.

Growth Mindset and Gratitude. Things can always change and will change. Be happy for where you are today.

Co-Coaching with Kids

Kids need mentors. Kids need peers to lean on and hear stories from too. That's why I am starting a membership in mid-September. This is for kids to have a place to meet and chat online, to talk about issues happening today, to meet up once a month with the support of local businesses for pizza nights. This is for parents to find a unified place of resources and community. I spent 10 years in the Calgary and Sherwood Park school systems supporting kids and youth as a social worker in a wide variety of areas, Why not bring some of those tools to Airdrie and this online community?

Aila, my 10-year-old daughter and I will be starting a membership on this blog for kids and youth to be able to chat, ask questions and learn. We are going to have weekly topics such as resiliency, self-image, self-esteem, mental toughness and story-telling to raise resiliency. We are also going to run both online and face to face 6-week sessions starting in the fall where members will have discounted options.

I'm excited about our future together. I'm excited about what it means to get my kids connected in the community and sharing their stories and triumphs over this struggle with COVID. I know I have learned a lot from watching the grace of my children cope with this insanity. It's time we connect again. It's time we RISE.

Who's talking about our Kids?

We are. We are lifting our future with confidence and we are showing any evil, doubt, drama or pain that we are here. We are Strong. We are RISING. And we will authentically speak and take back our lives and our purpose. Who's With Me?