January 2012 - Resilience


Resilience: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.


"Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them." -H. Jackson Brown

"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do." -Leonardo da Vinci

"Someone was hurt before you, wronged before you, hungry before you, frightened before you, beaten before you, humiliated before you, raped before you...yet, someone survived...You can do anything you choose to do." – Maya Angelou

"You can fall, but you can rise also." - Angelique Kidjo

"Life is not about what happens to us but what we do about it." - Ronit Baras

Teach Resilience

Resilience is part of our emotional intelligence. When faced with a problem, resilient people focus on finding a solution rather than getting depressed and feeling like victims. Resilience is another name to emotional strength. Everyone is born with a different temperament and, depending on how it interacts with life experiences; this can determine how resilient they become. However, resilience can also be learned.

Since we cannot control many of our life experiences, we can only control our response to them. As parents, our role is it to help our kids respond positively and with strength.

1. One major obstacle to forming resilience is negativity. Negative thinking makes people look badly at people, actions and behaviors and attracts the wrong experiences. Watch how you talk to your kids!

2. Teach flexibility. Flexible kids adjust well to different ideas and changing situations. Teach them to try different kinds of food, listen to different kinds of music and expose them to different cultures, different social groups and different hobbies.

3. Teach responsibility. When your kids blame someone else or circumstances for poor outcomes, help them understand that when they to this, they give the other person or the circumstances the power over their life. When they feel bad about something, ask them, "What can you do to feel better?" and "What can you learn from this?"

4. Teach emotions. From as early as 2 years old, offer your kids emotional words to express themselves. Teach them to say "I don't like it", "I'm not happy", "I want", "I prefer", "I will be happy if", "I'm upset" and "I was sad". Increase their emotional vocabulary by having a big vocabulary yourself and using mirroring like "Are you sad that they didn't invite you to play?"

5. Teach positive focus. Find good in every situation. Make a habit of saying one good thing about every bad situation. If your kids fail in math, make them find something good that can come out of it, such as, "I know now what I need to work on" or "I've learned the power of practice". Seeing the good in everything will help them respond better to loss, change, major illnesses or any other challenge.

6. Level your expectations. When your expectations are too high, your child experiences less success, feels more out of control and may give up. If you are not sure about where to set your expectation, try to remember yourself at that age and compare your behavior to your kids. If you cannot remember exactly what you did at that age, hanging around other parents, preferably positive parents, can give you a good indication to what to expect. Bear in mind there is no such thing as a universal biological clock, so if your friends' daughter makes her own lunch at the age of 4, this only means it is possible, but it does not mean that all kids should be able to make their own lunches at the age of 4.

7. Help your kids master a skill. Being good at something gives kids a very good feeling and confidence. Help them find something they like. People can do better at the things they like. This can be art, sport, math, reading, dancing, music, languages, drama... When kids are good at something, they know the making of success. For example, they know that in order to become successful in drama, they got through many rejections but survived. They also get many positive feedbacks for their achievements and hard work and it motivates them to keep moving forward even if they have difficulties.

8. Expose your kids to inspiring people who have worked against all odds. If you have such people around you, make sure your kids spend a lot of time with them. You can always tell your kids the real stories about successful people (artists, business people, actors, singers...), including the parts about getting over obstacles and difficulties. Find stories from your life that are good examples of how you recovered from hard experiences.

9. Tell your kids they always have a choice. In every situation, every person has a choice about what to do, how to respond and how to feel. Tell your kids that there are many options to do, respond or feel and the difference between people going through the same crisis is in the way they do, respond and feel. For example, two people with a serious illness can respond either by feeling fear and giving up or by learning, getting support and aiming for health.

10. Teach gratitude. Grateful kids are more positive. If they appreciate what they have and focus on it rather than what they do not have, they will not treat not getting what they want as "the end of the world."

11. Teach your kids to reward themselves. Unfortunately, kids live in a society that reflects that their rewards are external, and kids reach a point where they depend on such rewards. This dependency does not give them control over life, but rather, a huge need for others to give them a kind word, tell them they are good, and encourage them. If they can say, "I did well," "I was great," or "I'm a good friend," this will give them a lot of strength.

12. Having a purpose is an important factor of resilience. According to Abraham Maslow, purpose is a high-level need. For kids, having a purpose is a bit big and overwhelming. The easiest way to explain purpose is to talk to them about the big picture, about the big world, about considering others, and about making a difference. The first step of teaching kids about purpose is to encourage them to give their time for the "greater good" of society. They can help by volunteering their time, skills or money (if applicable) to what they consider a good cause and use the good feeling as their reward.


Books to share with your children about Resilience:

  • A Gift for Gita by Rancha Gilmore
  • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
  • Mr. Magnolia by Quentin Blake
  • Three Cheers for Errol! by Babette Cole
  • Peter and the Wolf by Selena Hastings
  • Stay Fang by Barbara Shook Hazen
  • Chester's Way by Kevin Hanke
  • Frederick by Leo Lionni


Activities about Resilience:

For your kids:

At the dinner table, invite your family to share "the best part of my day." Go around the table and each family member takes a turn to share. This teaches positive thinking, and many times, a story of resilience arises from day to day: "my test scores are better this week," "I learned how to sing the whole song," "I read that new book," etc.

For your class:

Discuss what a PR (personal record) means in the sport of track and field. It is a different time and number for everyone, and in school each student has different goals for improvement. Invite members of the class to select a new book to read, and talk about making their own PRs in reading new books.

For the office:

At regular meetings in January, invite co-workers to share a brief story of resilience in the workplace—it can be a case study in the news or a personal story or compliment in your own office. This creates an environment of support for challenges and celebrates successes. Or to encourage a positive environment in the workplace throughout the entire month, hang a bulletin board in your break room, and keep a stack of colored index cards nearby. Every time an employee observes a co-worker exemplifying a strength or resilient characteristic, have them describe it on an index card, and post it on the bulletin board with that persons name on it. Within a few weeks, you'll find a rainbow of strengths in action and your employees will be happy to learn about all of the positive qualities that others are noticing in the workplace.