How to Learn Resilience If You’re A Grown Up

DSC_0236Resilience is a real buzz word at the moment, and for good reason. We all want our children to be resilient adults, so they need to learn how to be resilient while they’re growing up. It’s a tough one – we’re all doing the best we can, but some kids are just more resilient than others.

Personally, I have two kids on opposite ends of the resilience scale. One is very resilient, takes things on the chin, moves on. Another one of my children is what I’d describe as a highly sensitive child and this can be seen in how resilient she is. She’s learning, and I’m trying to guide her, but what if the grown up guiding the child is still learning how to be resilient? 

I’m not sure it’s as black and white as once you become an adult you get your resilience licence – like a drivers licence – book in, pass the test, and it’s yours. From my own experience as an adult, I’ve had lots of experiences where I feel  wobbly, and scared, like I want to run away.

Shut the doors on life, I just don’t have what it takes to participate in this round.

But there have been other times when I’ve powered on, in the most adverse of circumstances because I have felt mentally or emotionally strong enough.  

I’m not sure what determines a person’s ability to power on, but I do think that learning resilience is a life-long pursuit. Doing the ground work with your child while they are young is most definitely important, but there are some things you just can’t prepare for.

I attended a recent information night at my children’s school on how to foster resilience in children. It was a useful session and helped shine a light on areas that I could improve my conduct so I am a better role model for my children. But there have been times when I just want my nine year old’s social problems to  ‘go away’ equally as much as she does. And when she tells me that the girls at school were running away from her today, I want to cry big fat tears too, just like she is.

Sometimes this preoccupation with resilience makes me wonder if we are trying to remove what it is to be human. To have an emotional response these days is not considered ideal. I want to share my daughters outrage at the injustice of her friends running off on her. Because of this information session, I’m trying not to show my outrage, or to show her that my heart is hurting for her. But I wonder how beneficial this is to her. Will she think I don’t care if I respond with ‘Oh really’ – like we’ve been instructed to do?

So how does learning resilience for adults look?

 

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Probably very much like it looks for children trying to learn resilience. One thing that came out of this information session was that trial and error are great opportunities for learning resilience. I have found this to be true as an adult.

When I lost my first baby through miscarriage, I was absolutely devastated. I had two weeks off work, and I wept for what seemed like months. When it happened a second time, I was equally as devastated but I didn’t fall apart any where near the degree I did after the first one. And with each subsequent miscarriage from there, I got better at coping with the loss.

It didn’t meant that I was any less sad, or my grief or anger was diminished, but I got better at finding strategies to deal with the sadness and disappointment. Nothing my parents could have done would have prepared me for that.

There are some things that we can’t prepare for, or prepare our children for.  This is what makes us human – we can’t always have a rational, intellectual response. But if life is throwing you off kilter a bit, and you’re feeling more wobbly than usual (because this happens too – we can feel great, strong and positive, then lose our balance because of… well, life) there are some things that can help.

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There’s the usual default stuff like eat cake, drink wine (too much wine), eat chocolate, go to bed, and then there’s the stuff for longer term recovery and resilience.

Phone a friend, talk it out. Sometimes just getting a different perspective on a situation can change the way you respond to it. If you call a friend who you know will be kind and supportive, you’re half way there. Maybe your friend can help you start thinking about ways to navigate the path in a more positive way.

Problem solve. Hopefully reaching out to your friend/partner/support person will start the wheels in motion for solving some of the problems you’re facing. Looking at the situation with a problem solving mindset can immediately reduce the enormity of said situation. Slowly working your way through ways to approach it can help.

Be mindful. Mindfulness is not a fix-all, but it can be a really powerful tool for wellbeing if used in an intentional way. Focusing on the here and now, and specifically on the things that are good in your life (such as cake, and wine) can really help take away that feeling of helplessness.

Finding ways to bounce back can be hard when you’re feeling like life has taken a turn for the worst, but starting with the little things like a good and kind friend, cake, wine and a nice long sleep can see you through to the time when you feel strong enough to tackle the bigger things. Facing the tough stuff is just more credits towards building your very own grown-up version of resilience.

But don’t forget that squeezing out those big fat tears when life serves up a shit-sandwich is ok too, because we’re not resilience machines, we’re humans. 

Comments

  1. Peta says

    This is brilliant Collette, thank you. I think it captures the adult, human (as opposed to machine), experience completely. Your suggestions are great and sometimes it’s just good to know that everyone is trying their best, but everyone also has their ‘moments’.

    • collette says

      It just struck me that perhaps I wasn’t the best person to be guiding when I feel that I’m still learning too. And I guess all of us grown ups are still learning – but sometimes ‘adulting’ is hard. x

  2. says

    Great post. Resilience is such a great thing to write about and something I think about heaps. I think we have really got to teach our kids about resilience x

  3. says

    Collette – so sorry to hear you are going through this. But I think it’s an interesting approach your school is teaching to building resilience. I’m going through a training course at the moment on emotional resilience for children and one of the first aspects is acknowledging the emotion your child is experiencing (without dwelling on it but to make sure your child is acknowledged) and then look at problem solving. Would that help?

    • collette says

      For sure, Helen. The woman they brought in was saying not give the emotional side of it too much oxygen so they don’t default to catastrophising. She also suggested getting them to come up with their own ideas on how to improve things. But I guess my point was that sometimes having this very rational/intellectual response isn’t necessarily what they need. But finding the balance so they don’t get totally stuck in the emotions, and have the tools to navigate their way to a better space is what is really hard. I think as grown ups we are still navigating our own experiences, so we don’t always have the answers. xx

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