We all may know a family, one with more than its fair share of Heavy Life Stuff with which they have had to deal. From long-term health woes for one of the kids to a mom or dad deployed for months (or years) at a time to losing a home in a hurricane, haven't we all known of a family (or maybe more than one) who has had to cope with daily stressors well beyond "What am I going to make for dinner?".
No matter the heftiness of the struggle, I always find it interesting how some people cope so well with day-to-day stress while others have a rough time of it. Those folks that can bounce back faster? They are what's is called "more resilient." I've read a lot about how teaching our kids to be resilient is one of the main ways to help them succeed in life.
Now, building up resilience in your family doesn't mean you won't feel emotions, won't feel crappy and frustrated and worry. It also doesn't mean you have to have huge life-altering situaions. But, to build resilience, you boost the ability to move along beyond negativity, beyond anxiety and stress and learn how to transition to another plan, to adapt to the situation and to find a way to tackle your world no matter what it throws at you -- from missing the winning goal to moving to a new school to not getting that promotion.
How can you help build a good resilient foundation in your family? Take a look at some of these ideas to start doing now to help build those skills that will make you and you family more resilient.
-- Alter those thought patterns. Both kids and adults can fall into "negative thinking black holes," where the negativity takes a hold and you can't seem to shake it. I am totally not good at altering my thoughts. I know the trick here is to get into a habit of replacing those irrational or self-defeating thoughts with more positive, or at least, different thoughts.
-- Work on communication. Being able to communicate truly and deeply our emotions with other family members can reduce stress and impact our ability to tackle the hard situation. Setting aside specific times, like mini afterschool "check-in meetings," when anyone can bring up something big or small they are feeling, is a good first step.
-- Surround your family with good people. Having other families and folks that are positive and supportive around on a steady basis has been proven to help ease stress and boost resilience, especially in children. Seek out times to chill with other families and share good times together, so when the hard times arise, you have a foundation of support already built.
-- Work on your time management and organization. Often small stressors like running late or losing homework can make dealing with larger stress harder to do. Be sure your family has a good organization and have good routines in place.
-- Practice gratitude. By actively focusing on the positive aspects of our life, no matter how small, it affects our internal emotional compass. Good things (having food on the table, being able to watch the Super Bowl together, a job, the cuddliness of Mr. Whiskers, the cat) are usually taken for granted. Calling attention to them reminds you that there are positives and keeps you "in balance," so to speak.
-- Keep laughing. Not only does it "lighten" the emotional level, it gives you and your family a feeling of power over the stressful situation. Cracking a joke also provides a good way to transition from negative place to a positive path.
Are your kids resilient or do they need some work on this? What about you? Share your thoughts on being and building resilience!