Resilience: Can We Pass It On?

Resilience: Can We Pass It On?

“Nobody really cares if you’re miserable, so you might as well be happy.” Cynthia Nelms

The above quote appears in this week’s weekly momAgenda spread, and when I read it I remembered being 12 years old. We all remember being 12 years old, right? The drama, the “oh why me,” the “nobody understands,” etc., etc. When I was 12 life had admittedly not been easy up until that point: my parents had long-ago divorced, and the situation between them was still ugly, and I had a stepfather who really did not like me at all. I spent a lot of time in my room thinking about my life and my problems and trying to sort things out, but most of all, feeling sorry for myself.

Interestingly, this approach did nothing to change my situation. My mom still traveled a lot for work, my stepfather still disliked me, and I still had no athletic prowess or artistic talent or even academic brilliance whatsoever compared to my friends at school. One night in my room, listening to the Journey Escape album for the millionth time, I had an epiphany: Nobody feels sorry for me, except me, so I might as well get over it. It was like a light turning on. I realized I was wasting my time feeling sorry for myself, and resolved to move forward and make the best of my situation. I can’t remember exactly, but I think I might have even made a list of steps I would take to start feeling better and creating a happier life (even then I was a compulsive list-maker).

I don’t know if it was resilience at work in that moment, or if it was sheer practicality, but it served me well. Was it a trait I was born with, or a skill my mom fostered in me? The reason I want to know is that I want my kids to have that same ability, the ability to stop wallowing (because we all wallow at some point or another) and pull themselves up and out of the muck.

We are so busy protecting our kids from harm, from discomfort, and even from teachers they might not “click” with, that we might be missing the chance to help them build up their own resilience skills. I certainly would not have chosen some of the circumstances of my childhood, but I would not trade the life skills I have now, and I hope I can find a way to pass them on to my own children. (Preferably, without the mean stepfather!)

What about you? How do you foster resilience in your kids?