Resilience is the ability to bounce back after hardship. When it comes to hardship, our youth aren’t bouncing. They are crumbling on the floor, and not over deep trauma, but over simple things like money management, homework, and work expectations.
Colleges are finding an issue with resilience in today’s young adults. Many of their students are afraid to fail and take risks. Counselling calls have doubled, and these young people are experiencing crisis over every day life issues. Emotionally, youth are unable to handle things that are just a part of life.
I’m seeing the same with youth. Just this summer I spoke at a youth camp where I presented the idea that perhaps the youth didn’t need to be DEFINED by depression and anxiety. This idea was met with misunderstanding and outright opposition. First, many misinterpreted this to mean I don’t believe in their diagnosis. If anyone, after all my family has been through, of COURSE I believe in the diagnosis and don’t ever doubt the reality of what youth go through regarding depression and anxiety, I only offered the option of not being defined by it. The opposition came because if they are not defined by their diagnosis…
then who on earth are they?
We have set up a world where we coddle our children to get out of things they find hard because of their limitations. Youth and children are often overprotected, and given permission to bow out. Far too often they are told more about their limitations than their opportunities.
You may be wondering, “But what about your message of Bringing Them Closer? Bringing our kids closer doesn’t mean coddling them away from pressing through hard things. Bringing Them Closer means having such a strong connection with your child that you know what their threshold is. You know when to push them and when to hold them. This takes trial and error and more trail and error, all while communicating and learning to dance with your young one.
For example, my youngest who just entered grade 4 has never liked school. Every first day of school picture since kindergarten has him looking miserable. For him, I know that pushing through school is something he needs to learn. He needs to learn the discipline of doing things he doesn’t like and finding the positive amongst the negative. For my oldest son, my push with him has been to learn to not be defined by his past limitations of being diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
The reason we don’t know how to push our kids through tough things is because what parent likes seeing their child suffer, right? It’s incredibly painful. After dragging my son to school, or getting firm with my oldest about adopting a more positive self-talk I feel like the ultimate “bag”.
What I find particularly interesting in my line of work in resilience is that it’s often the kids who don’t have a whole lot of opportunity hand fed to them that rise up to become the resilient ones. I see this in some of the low income areas I’ve worked in. These kids have incredible tenacity to leave the “hood” and make something of themselves. Meanwhile, my children are complaining because I lowered their allowance and now it will take them longer to save for the newest video game…
There is so much to say on this, but for now let me leave you with three simple reasons our kids aren’t resilient and what we can do to change that.
Everyone doesn’t win
Everyone does NOT win. When you play a game whether it’s checkers, or team softball, there is only one winner. This whole “ending in a tie” or “everybody wins” is setting our kids up for trouble in the future when they realize that in real life, everyone doesn’t win. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We have to be able to work into our children the ability to deal with disappointment. It’s ok when someone is better than us. We can still celebrate our own talent and skill and work hard to achieve our goals.
I remember being the slowest runner in school. If I would have received the same ribbon as the fastest runner who crossed the finish line first it would have given me a false sense of confidence. “Look at how amazing I am at running!” Even worse, it would make the fastest runner think, “Why bother training and striving for excellence if I get the same prize as the slowest runner? Why try?”. A better ribbon to give a slow runner like me would be a “perseverance award” to encourage me to keep running no matter how slow. The fastest runner who trains and works hard deserves a first place. ribbon. They earned it, and it encourages them to keep pushing for gold.
The first thing we can do to build more resilience in our young people is teach them the skills needed to deal with disappointment and to keep showing up regardless of the outcome.
Just because you showed up doesn’t mean success is guaranteed
Some youth who are lucky enough to be pushed to show up despite how they feel somehow still feel entitled to have everything work out for them. Showing up does NOT guarantee that everything is going to go smooth. In fact, you may show up to a complete gong show, or to an experience that becomes one of the hardest things you’ve ever faced. We need to teach our youth that the world owes them nothing. People owe them nothing. Their boss owes them nothing. We need to instil the discipline inside of owning ourselves and our choices. If we don’t like the way we are being treated at work or school, we choose to empower our voice to speak up respectfully. No one is going to applaud you just for showing up to work. There’s no red carpet leading into a classroom they find difficult. This isn’t “adulting”, this is the key to life.
The second thing we need to do to build more resilience in our youth is to teach them how to honour their voice, advocate for themselves respectfully, and own their own choices. Sometimes showing up will be hard. Life doesn’t owe them anything, life is what they make of every experience, both positive and negative.
We have forgotten to teach our kids the reward of character
Showing up when it’s hard may not guarantee success but it does guarantee something far greater: character. I have never seen a generation more void of character and values in my 20 years of working with youth resilience. When was the last time you heard someone talk about the character hard experiences build into our lives? I don’t hear it anymore, but there’s never been a time we need to hear it more. Showing up when it’s hard builds character like honor, loyalty, integrity, perseverance, and work ethic. These are the very characteristics we all need to make our marriages last, and parent our children. This kind of character is what every CEO needs to run an honourable company that gives back to its community. Our kids need to experience the grit of pressing through hardships to become resilient and strong.
The third thing we need to do to build more resilience in our youth is to teach them what hard experiences create INSIDE of them~ We need to remind them more of how unlimited they are rather than excuse them with limitations. We can do this all while creating a place of emotional safety and empathy in our homes and classrooms that allows them to know they are believed in and held while going through some turbulence. Just telling them to “suck it up” doesn’t build resilience either.
What do you believe can create more resilience in our young people today?
*References cited on the blog