Monday, May 19, 2014

Resilience, Rainbows And Other Ramblings

IMAGE : PIXAR 'Boundin' | Resilience

I seem to spend a lot of time talking to my girls about resilience. 

Resilience is pretty much defined as having the ability to cope with, and bounce back from life's speed humps, big or small. Some kids are naturally more resilient than others (I suspect environment plays a role in their ability to cope) and some kids need to be taught. Not surprisingly, mine fall squarely into the latter category. Even as I type, Miss A (five) is snivelling uncontrollably because Miss O (ten) doesn't want to play Minecraft with her. Her tears, heartbreak and lack of acceptance of this momentary rejection demonstrates pretty clearly that we have a lot of work to do in regard to her resilience but then again, she's five so no great surprises there.

At a recent school assembly, Miss O and her classmates delivered a speech on resilience. I metaphorically punched the air at the relevance of the content as my girl stood at the lectern confidently discussing the notion of bouncing back and immediately the irony was palpable as I recalled her countless tears over the smallest of things only days before. Despite her obvious knowledge on the subject, putting it into practise is clearly an entirely different thing - especially if that child is living a beautifully sheltered life of cotton candy and rainbows like mine and many other middle class, Aussie kids. Within the assembly presentation, the girls presented a PIXAR short film called 'Boundin' in order to demonstrate the notion of being resilient so I thought I'd share it on the blog because I really liked it. Watch 'Boundin' here.

Generally speaking, I consider my kids to be really lucky by comparison and I try and remind them of this fact every day. In saying that, this 'fortunate life' is the only one they know; they have nothing 'real' to compare it against so to them, the idea of being 'fortunate' is simply one of Mum's many ramblings (among others).  Try as I might, I haven't found that perfectly balanced experience that magically opens their eyes to the fact that there's a whole world outside of their bubble which can be unfair, disappointing and downright tough. As parents, we are often torn between exposing too much of the real world's perils versus teaching them about hardship and that not everything comes easy. It's a fine line but lucky for a lot of us we get to choose when and how we expose our kids to the harshness of reality. Sadly, others aren't so lucky and the real world smacks them in the face daily; resilience for them becomes not simply a lesson but more a question of survival.

With regard to my own kids though, I feel strongly that learning to deal with disappointment plays a big part in becoming more resilient. I see so many parents vehemently 'fixing' problems for their kids and while I understand their instinctive compulsion to do so, I oppose their strategy because in the end they're missing the perfect opportunity for their kids to learn a life lesson while there's a parent or carer there to lovingly arm them with the tools they need to help them get over it. For example, if a child is not getting enough time on the field during their sporting match, they miss out on a spot in a music ensemble, or they don't get their favourite classroom teacher, why not use this chance for them to learn that life doesn't always smile in their direction? Because let's face it - if their basic needs are being met, they're generally happy and they're surrounded by people who love them, life actually IS smiling in their direction. In the end, let's not lose perspective on our definition of 'lucky' which we all do at times. Let's also allow our kids to experience a good bout of disappointment every so often. Hopefully then, the resilience will come.

The more we shelter our children from every disappointment, the more devastating future disappointments will be. 


  1. Actually Soph, I didn't roll my eyes one at this. Because you and I sit squarely in the same spot.

    My kids are so very fortunate, and yet I can't necessarily expect them to comprehend this good fortune - since this is just the world I have brought them into and the only one they know.

    I try at every opportunity to show them how peoples life experiences are different, but at this early stage it's all academic. I totally agree though that small disappointments and set backs need to be fostered and learned from, not hidden or smoothed over.

    The studies all show that children who suffer genuine hardship, if supported through it go on to become the most resilient of adults. The fact that we are lucky enough to offer these lessons to our children in such a gentle, loving, and safe way is simply another way in which we are so very lucky.

    It should be embraced, not squandered.

    Gorgeous post, as ever.

  2. Hey Soph. Love this! Whilst my kids are lucky too, they have had to do it hard as well. There were points in our lives (the 3 of us) where we had no heating, snow was filling up outside our door, food was minimal but I always used to say to them "What are we rich in? We are rich in love!" because at the end of the day they knew they were loved, warmed by snuggling up together and were safe. They now really appreciate so many things we didn't have - whilst they, to some extent, had to grow up quickly I feel very comfortable knowing they can and will survive. Hurts like hell when you have to basically say "suck it up princess" because inside your are dying and wanting to fix it...but when you cant you cant and that's just life. Agreed, great post as usual.

  3. My oldest was just told today that she isn't good enough for her next ballet exams, she was upset, had a bit of a cry and then got on with things and is now talking about next year and alternatives and things. It is heart breaking to see this kind of thing with your kids and all your instincts say to protect them and make everything ok.
    We are dealing with it a lot with her wanting to be a performer because we know that road has plenty of rejections and she will need to be resilient to make it where she wants to go :) XX

  4. Oh shit this really rings true with me, my kids are what I consider quite privileged compared to lots of others, not just materially but with loving, supportive parents and they don't do rejection so well! Love this post and thanks for giving me food for thought!