Let’s talk about resilience.
[A mom in The Motherhood in the Making Community] asked a really great question: How can we build resilience in our kids?
That’s a really great question for your kid’s sake and also for your own.
Resilience, what is that? It’s a catchword these days, but what is it really?
So, let’s take a second and just talk about what is resilience?.
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. And that means, like, when you feel really crummy, that you can pick yourself up, that you can feel okay. “I can do this”. “I can manage this”. “Everything’s going to be okay”.
It’s that inner voice of comfort in my head that says you’re okay. Everything’s going to be okay.
So that’s resilience, but how do we build it in our kids?
Candy, [another mama in The Motherhood in the Making Community] who is a counselor in Perth, Western Australia, gave some really great tips and she says teaching self-regulation, body assertiveness, encourage inner strength based on your own ability. Yes, yes, yes! All these things. Now these are skills, right? And this is important. We have to teach our kids skills. We actually have to teach them what to do and how to manage.
I want to add to this-what I think is really important and it often gets overlooked and that is: Our relationship with our kids.
Our relationship with our kids, the quality of our relationship with our kids is what nurtures resilience in our kids, and I want to tell you how that works.
So, resilience is this inner voice in our head that says, “I’m okay and everything’s going to be okay”.
With that awareness and that consciousness, I can calm my primitive brain-the part of my brain that is like, you know, sirens are going, red lights are flashing [siren sound].
[It’s this unconscious voice in our head that says,] “Something is terribly wrong here!”. “Batten down the hatches!”. “Oh my god, this is going to be terrible!”. “This is going to be awful!”.
That stress response functions to keep us safe, but sometimes that stress response can be set off in a way that doesn’t actually reflect reality. So, we can think that things are going to go awry, and are going to be horrible, when, in fact, everything’s going to be okay. It’s simply because experience has taught us that we should be concerned, when really, there’s no need to be concerned.
So, what we want to do is nurture in our children a sense of reality in which they’re okay, and the world is safe, and that everything’s going to be okay (even in those things that we don’t have control over). It’s going to be okay, a sense of certainty, a sense of security, which is the sense that we are safe even when we don’t have certainty.
And so we want to nurture this in our day-to-day interactions with our kids that, I myself as a parent can calm myself down and feel confident that everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be okay- and not let myself go to a place where I could catastrophise or I condemn. Like, “you’re the worst”. “I’m the worst”. “Nothing’s ever going to be okay”. “This is not going to be okay”.
And now here’s the key….
These thoughts are not in our awareness necessarily. And so the key here is to pay attention.
And if you’ve heard me say this once, you’ve heard me say it a million times. Pay attention.
Pay attention to what happens to me when I encounter difficulties. When I encounter difficulties in my own life, like I’m late for an appointment and then I get stuck behind a slow-moving truck. What happens? Pay attention. Or when, an example that came up in the group the other day, time and time again one mom has told her son, “Don’t take your iPod into the bathroom. Don’t do it. Trust me, mama knows”. And he did and he did and he did, and guess what, down the toilet, urgh!
For me as a mother, that’s a difficulty. [When my kid does something that they’ve been told not to do] is very threatening to me, and I’m having a visceral sort of somatic reaction to that. I hope you are too, because that’s an opportunity to pay attention.
Notice what that feels like.
Notice what thoughts come through my head.
Put yourself there.
This is what I do as a therapist. This is what I will do in my work with my clients. This is what we do in the Enjoy Life with Kids course. We work through these skills, because being able to tune in to ourselves, and to connect with ourselves, is exactly what we want to nurture in our relationships with our kids.
Resilience doesn’t mean you don’t feel crappy.
Resilience doesn’t mean that you don’t feel bad or you don’t feel scared or you don’t feel overwhelmed. It means that I can feel it and allow myself to feel it and give myself permission to feel it. And so we want to afford that opportunity for our children. We want to give them the opportunity to feel crappy — yeah, it feels pretty crappy to drop your iPod in the toilet. Yeah, you sit with that. I’m not going to take over the space with my irritation. I’m going to tolerate my own feelings, because yeah I’m also really pissed off. You didn’t listen to me.
And so, I’m going to model to you resilience because I’m going to regulate my own emotions, and I’m also going to give you space, with trust that you can do it. It’s going to be okay.
You know, sometimes we are scared of our kids feeling bad, so we try to save them from it and we need to know, they need to know, that they can tolerate it. They really can, and they need to develop these skills.
I’m going to sit with it. And you can sit with that.
You sit with feeling crappy.
Last night I told my three-year-old, “okay into bed, let’s go inside.” You know, we’re out in the yard and he’s like, “I have to do one more thing. I have to do one more thing”. Right, he’s stalling, and he’s in his own world, and he’s got to run… he’s going to do a running start and I’m just like, you know, I’m lik,e just get into the house (nobody listens to me!) And he does a running start and, obviously, you know what happens, he falls. So, why didn’t you just get into the house!? “I told you to get into the house!”, and he falls, and I’m just like, “Well you deserve it”, you know? That’s what happens. I want to go down the road of shame…. and I just stop myself.
Catching yourself in the act is okay too
What we need to do is we need to catch ourselves when we’re not parenting the way we want a parent. We’re not relating the way we want to, or not handling situations the way we want to. I need to be like, “Whoa! This is not what I want!”, and we need to be like, “What’s going on for me? Oh my god I am so irritated right now. This is so irritating!”. And I sit with this irritation, and when I connect with myself, when I connect with my irritation, now I can connect with my son and be like hello three year old just got hurt, what do you think he’s thinking about? He just got hurt. What an unfair world. What an injustice. I just wanted to do something fun and I just wanted to show mom what I could do, and I want to push my limits and see what happens… and I got hurt. That’s so unfair. What kind of world is this?
He’s three and a half. He’s very new to this world. And I want to show him that even though this world will come with bumps and bruises, I’m here for you. I am here for you. And I shifted, because I caught myself. And that’s what we need to do. We need to catch ourselves. I shifted and said, “Oh, you got hurt”, because it’s like what, ten seconds. I can show them some compassion and love, and with that connection it wires his brain again and again. If he consistently have these connections (consistency isn’t a great word because I am terrible in consistency) but when when he gets hurt, again and again, again and again, again and again when he gets hurt, he has love. So that, in the future, when he experiences physical or emotional pain, uncertainty or injustice, he can call on that. He has me in his mind comforting him when he has difficulty. And with that, he’s not alone in the world, the world’s not so scary.
Resilience Is a Hand Out of a Black Hole
It’s when we feel alone in the world, when we feel scared, that is what impairs our resilience. How can I possibly get up when I’m down? There’s no one here. And I have these images coming to my head of my clients, like one client was describing to me how — explaining a difficult in her life. I was exploring with her the possibility of “what happens when I imagine coming out?”. What does it feel like to come out of that black hole? And she says, “It’s a hand reaching down. It’s like I imagine,” and she’s like really there and she’s connecting to this image, “the hand reaches down”.
So, what gets us out of a black hole? It’s like the hand reaching down.
Because in my client’s world, no one’s there to support her. She’s completely alone. And it’s connecting with a part of ourselves where I’m not alone. And that’s what we want to nurture in our kids. So yes resilience, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties is skills, like explicitly teaching skills. But first and foremost, in order for us to actually utilize these skills, we need to have the tools. So like, if you want to teach a writing class, you better make sure you come prepared with a pencil, all right. So like your relationship, that’s your pencil.
Relationships make things happen
You are building your kids ability, the wiring in their brain to actually utilize these tools, to actually execute these tools. The place in our brain that is responsible for executive functioning, executing a task, is also responsible for compassion and caring. So, if we’re going to give our kids experiences of compassion love, caring, empathy, understanding, it’s going to nurture their ability to execute a task. And sometimes the task is to pause, and be like, okay what do I need to do now? I’m stuck in traffic. I’m late. I’m feeling really irritated, what do I do?
Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to take a deep breath, and make a plan.
Relationships Start with You
So, it starts in our relationships, and this is what I stand for, this is what Motherhood in the Making stands for-the relationship is with you first and foremost. It begins with you. It begins with me as a mother. My ability to stop myself when I’m under stress, to pause and catch myself when I’m losing it, to tune in and reflect on what’s happening for me, to connect with myself and to be okay with myself and to nurture, in my own mind, the perception that everything’s going to be okay. You’re okay, Liba. Nothing’s wrong with you. You’re fine. You’re okay and the world is okay and the world is actually safe and you can feel safe in this world and everything’s going to be okay. And not just say it, but to believe it. That has become my perception of the world now. It wasn’t always and now it is.
Motherhood in the Making is about me, as a mother, or even as a father as well, as parents, as adults, now responsible for the growth and development of my children, that I go and I make sure that I’m okay, and that I feel okay, so that I can adequately nurture the sense of safety and security, and ultimately, resilience in my children.
Let me know your thoughts and your comments below. Thank you for being a part of this community. I am so grateful to have this community as a mom. This is the community I’ve always wanted and always needed and I’m so grateful that it’s here and that you’re part of it. You make it great. So, thanks for tuning in and thanks for being here. Have a great weekend everybody. Bye for now.