help your kids

Seven Ways to Help Your Kids Be Strong and Resilient – Part 1

John ThurmanBy John Thurman12 Minutes

You and I want the best for our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews. We want all children to thrive and turn into caring, productive adults. Right? Today

This article is the first of Seven Ways to Help Your Kids be Strong and Resilient, a four-part series designed to give you tips and tools to help your children become strong and resilient.

Let’s talk about practical things you can do to get your kids ready for life. How do you prepare your kids to build and cultivate happiness and success even when life gets tough?

Dr. George Everly, a psychologist and one of the leading global researchers on trauma and resilience — and one of the most influential mentors in my life — has done a great deal of work in this area from which we’ll benefit today. This article is based partly on his 2008 book, Resilient Child, and partly on my work as an area expert on resilience.

Since 2012, we have seen a steady decline in our children’s ability to be resilient. Part of this is due to the introduction of the smartphone[i]. Recent studies have shown that the primary culprit is time spent on social media.[ii] Some of the measurable negative impacts, according to the National Library of Medicine are increased depression, anxiety, cyberbullying, body image issues, as well as body image issues.[iii] A study from the University of North Carolina shows that can negatively social skills, self-control (emotional regulation), cognition, and problem-solving skills.[iv] While not the only reason, it has proven to be a mile-marker. Add to this the convulsive impact of the pandemic combined with other factors such as increased social isolation, as well as multiple layers of increased negativity in our society and as a result, many children and young adults appear to lack the vibrancy, hope, and tenacity to transition into adulthood successfully.

This article is in no way to be seen as an indictment but as a way forward. I’d love to hear your comments.

We live in one of the most challenging times in recent history, a time of polarization, negativity, learned helplessness, tension, and sometimes anger. Unfortunately, if history does repeat itself, we are in for even more divisive, difficult times. We as parents, grandparents, and caring adults must become more intentional about teaching our kids to be resilient and able to deal with the good, bad, and ugly stuff about life. To give our kids a better chance, we must begin preparing them to be mentally tough yet without displacing the classic Christian virtues of joy, self-control, compassion, and steadfastness.

One of the ways we prepare the next generations for tomorrow is to give them the life skills they will need today. The good news is, if you didn’t receive these in your childhood, you can develop them in your own life while passing them on to your kids.

Pericles, a stoic Greek philosopher, and statesman said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved on stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Over the past forty-five years, clinicians, researchers, and others in the fields of mental health, Disaster Response, and Critical Event Management have studied resilience—the ability of humans to rebound from adversity and move forward with their lives. The results of the research are both exciting and encouraging.

The best predictors of resilience are 1) optimism and the belief in oneself and 2) connectivity and interpersonal, face-to-face encouragement and support. The good news is that these traits are not necessarily tied to our DNA. So what does this mean? Resilience can be taught and incorporated into a person’s life (Everly, 2008).

“Time grants a unique perspective which allows us to see events through a filter of accumulated wisdom.” — Christopher Earle

With that in mind, let’s look at the Apostle Paul’s advice to the early Christian church in Rome. He wrote to them around 57-59 AD, during the first persecution of the church. Please take a few minutes to read and absorb what he is saying in Romans 8:35-39 (NLT).

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake, we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No. Despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, take a moment and re-read this powerful passage that encourages steadfastness, endurance, and resilience.

Seven Key Points from Resilience Research

Point # 1

There are two basic types of people in the world—those who edify and build up and those who detract and tear down. Choose to be the former. One of our goals as caring adults is to teach our kids that the best way to develop a happy, intentional, successful life is through their achievements and contributions toward the betterment of others.

One of the best examples of this is Restoration Pizza in Albuquerque. One of the unique things about these businesses is the way they actively include people with disabilities within their workforce.  This is taken from their website, “Restoration Pizza is a place where your differences only matter because they go better together. Where disabilities are just a part of a greater ability, and a high five can never be done solo. We know our pizza can’t end wars or create a utopian society. But when pizza is done the way it should be, it can bring an entire community closer to that feeling of fullness.”.[v]

Point # 2

We have to teach our kids to be optimists and believe that as individuals created in the image of God, they have the creative power to make a difference in this world. According to another thought leader in the field of resilience, Dr. Marty Seligman, individuals who devalue themselves and their actions and contributions actively ensure failure.[vi] The opposite is true as well. Suppose people believe in themselves and their ability to make a difference. In that case, their probability of a meaningful and well-rounded life significantly increases. So what does this mean? Our kids should learn to be humble in success, gracious in defeat, and fair.

Point # 3

Seeking to achieve in your personal life and contribute to the betterment of others is not an easy path.

“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” — Robert Kennedy.

We must both model and teach our children that anything worth doing or having is worth potentially failing for.

Point # 4

How do we operationally define failure? First, failure is never final. We must instill in our children that failure is not a lack of achievement. Failure is determined by the lack of effort or refusal to try. Life is filled with scary and sometimes tough decisions; they need to learn how to make the best decisions given the information they have at a given moment. Once they choose, they must let go of the anxiety that came with making their choice and move forward. There is rarely an absolute moment of complete clarity when you decide. Still, the opportunity may only return if you create one. To quote Kelly Clarkston’s famous song, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Don’t allow decision constipation to steal your capacity to make wise, life-enriching decisions. Refuse to become a victim of failure.

 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

The Apostle Paul – Philippians 3:14 ESV