Can We Learn (and Teach) Resilience to Our Children?

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Every fortnight I do a live radio interview on a local station here in the South of Ireland. The person interviewing me holds a PhD in English – a mighty achievement by any standard. She’s into words, their meaning, and how that meaning applies to our modern lives.

adversity strength resilience


This particular week she wanted to discuss the nature of resilience: What is resilience? Can it be taught? Can it be learned?

What is Resilience?

I’ll always remember this interview well – not because it was super-great or unusual in any way. I remember it because of her expression of surprise when she heard my personal definition of resilience. And it’s this:

Resilience is NOT about being bullet proof. It’s about being shot, feeling the pain, soothing the wound, taking the time to heal and then, when we’re ready, re-emerging.

Horrible experiences have a way of helping us cope and learn so we can be better equipped to deal with future pain (and maybe better able to avoid getting shot!)

Can We Teach Resilience?

Yes! There are many programs available online and literally thousands of articles on parenting, education and psychology blogs. But I’m hoping to save you some time by sharing a common theme with you: The beliefs we hold about ourselves are key to our resilience.

A Formula for Resilience Is as Simple as ABC!

We think of Adversity (A) as leading naturally to negative Consequences (C). In the short term of course this is true. But what differentiates people who thrive though adversity from people who seems subsumed by it?


Enter (B) – Belief. What if our relationship breaks down? That’s adversity, that’s for sure. And it leads to sadness, hurt, rage, disappointment, exhaustion, stress. Some people seem to recover and perhaps go on to have a more fulfilling relationship than the one they had so deeply mourned. Others will fall into a deep depression from which they might never fully emerge, maybe going through a series of unsuitable unhappy relationships along the way.

Find great sources for RESILIENCE right on Amazon!

What Makes the Difference?

The belief system the person has about themselves, about their value, and about how the world works.

We recover quicker from Adversity when we Believe that we deserve happiness and that we are worthy. While relationship failure, for example, isn’t 100% our fault, we are willing to look at how we could have done our half of things differently.

We naturally recover faster when we are aware of the things that are still going well despite our collapse. When we develop a strategy or habit of asking the questions, we learn to cope and eventually grow from our own pain.

The person who collapses long term will be more likely to believe (as distinct from temporarily breaking down and thinking) that they had this coming or that they don’t deserve to be happy. This is when solutions are often seen as pointless, hopeless, because they’ve been put in the ‘probably won’t work out either’ box.

This is when we get stuck, ultimately feeling like victims who have no (and who won’t take any) control. An unpleasant consequence – one which a lot of us will have experienced.

teach resilience

How Can We Teach Resilience to Our Children?

There are 8 core ‘habits’ or ‘values’ that we can learn and teach to create resilience – you’ll see it’s not as hard as you might think, and you might even see that you already do them!

  • Accepting failure as part of the same line that  includes success is crucial to our development of resilience. In this way we can teach a child that ‘failure’ is often a step, not the last step, rather it’s one of many. This teaches the child to embrace mistakes and their humanity.
  • Connections: Teach your child how to make friends and that it’s OK to ask them for help.
  • Empathy – teach your child how to help others when they falter. This has a wonderful feel-good factor and is also empowering for your child.
  • Routine – is comforting to all of us and structure helps steady us when we feel we are falling apart, even during a break!
  • Breaks and self-care – are an important part of any routine. Whatever is troubling us, practical or emotional, we need time away to think about other things, to have fun even and re-energise ourselves.
  • Perspective and optimism Even when your child is facing very painful events, help them to consider the big picture and long-term outcomes. Mindful that this is not to dismiss, ( “Well, it could be worse”!) but to include (this is terrible right now I know. I wonder how things might unfold…what would you like to see happen next?)
  • Realistic Goals and working towards them, even in baby steps, is rewarding and encouraging. Unrealistic goals will have the opposite effect on us AND our kids!
  • Change is normal: even though it’s scary – especially for young kids and teens. But we can reframe change as an opportunity rather than simply inconvenience, loss or ending – which is how we often perceive it.

motivational inspiring quote resilience

Can you see how all children can benefit from being resilient? In fact, adults can benefit as well! When you feel the need to wallow in your sorrows and self-pity, think about your own self-worth and gather the strength you can from it. Perhaps catastrophes and downfalls in our lives all happen for a reason. So let it take its course and take advantage of what you can learn from it, rather than the alternative, which could involve a great deal of self-pity.

I BELIEVE we are all capable of these things. I believe we deserve them. And that right there is a recipe for resilience!

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