Teaching and Practicing Resilience

Local column: Teaching and practicing resilience

Parenting your kids to build resilience will pay off in spades over the years, writes Taryn Yates.

They say parenting is the hardest job you’ll ever love.

Based on my limited two years of experience, I’d have to agree. It’s not an easy gig. Raising a child requires a lot of energy and sacrifice. You lose out on sleep, personal time and social time with friends. I feel lucky if I get to see my best friends once a month. Each day seems like going through an emotional and physical obstacle course, at the end of which you are rewarded with tiny hugs and an indeterminate amount of sleep. Despite the various challenges, I wouldn’t change a thing. My love for my family and gratitude for my situation are both strong factors in fostering my personal and parental resilience, one of the key protective factors against child maltreatment.

The idea of resilience as a crucial factor in both child development and parenting has gained popularity among professionals and the general community. Most people agree it generally means the ability to bounce back from adversity — and to learn from it. We learn to be resilient as a result of our experiences. You too are resilient — if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here. So, how can you build upon that resilience and foster your inner-strength?

Building resilience usually requires both external supports and possibly a few internal shifts in thinking. Experts say a key factor of resilience is being “future-oriented”. Or, stated more simply: Hope. Thinking about your future and even picturing it in your mind is a very simple way to build your internal resilience. When worried thoughts threaten to overwhelm me, I like to picture what my sons will be like when they are older. My husband and I like to joke that their future teachers will refer to them as “those Yates boys”, based on the rather assertive adventurousness that our first-born already demonstrates. Imagining my curly-haired offspring getting into good-natured shenanigans has eased me out of more than one post-partum anxiety attack.

Another essential ingredient to resilience is external supports. Both having actual support or the ability to find and secure support will build your resilience. It could be the emotional support of a best friend or neighbor who will watch your child in an emergency, a trusted mechanic that lets you make payments, or a long-term doctor who has worked with you through difficult physical ailments.

 

Parents with hope and support are less likely to abuse and neglect their kids for the simple reason that they are able to cope with stress better. Unchecked stress can cause parents to lash out physically, yes, but it’s even more likely to put them in situations where they can’t provide for their children’s physical and emotional needs because their own needs are too overwhelming.

If you are struggling, start building your resilience today. First, acknowledge your success in making it as far as you have despite your hardships. Then evaluate the things that are working in your life. Maybe you have a great family and friends, a roof over your head, and a week’s worth of food in your pantry. These things all count as support. How can you get more of these supports? Part of resilience is believing that difficult times will pass and empowering yourself to do what is necessary to keep yourself afloat until they do. Sometimes that first step is just asking for help. Try visiting livebetteridaho.org or calling 211, the Idaho Careline. You and your family are worth it!


Yates, Master in Social Work, is a grants manager and planner for the Idaho Children’s Trust Fund/Prevent Child Abuse Idaho.

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