By Kerrie McLoughlin

Child in classroom with books 

Resilience is an important skill to have throughout life, but what does resilience mean? It’s coming back from challenges with a positive attitude instead of a defeatist one. It’s a lack of whining and complaining…doing what needs to be done while learning from the adversity. It includes problem solving instead of problem creating. It’s picking yourself up and moving on, being made better in the process while also learning something.

In a Fatherly.com article, Lizzy Francis wrote, “It is up to parents to give [kids] the coping skills they’ll need, and to teach kids resilience: how to bounce back from setbacks and to overcome frustrations. Raising resilient children means raising kids who are independent, confident, curious, caring, and patient.”

Of course, you want to raise resilient, problem-solving children able to roll with the punches life will inevitably throw, so check out some common mistakes to watch out for along the way.

Mistake #1: Trying to Fix Everything

Instead of rushing to make sure life is always comfortable for your kids, let them figure out how to solve their own issues sometimes. This goes for relationships, school, work, sports and other activities. They’ll need to figure out how to deal with situations, and you’ll need to help them by brainstorming and teaching them how to handle things without rescuing.

Mistake #2: Being Overprotective

Yes, we live in a crazy world, but our kids should be able to enjoy some freedoms, like walking to their friend’s house up the street, depending on their age and maturity level. And I do worry when my teens drive themselves places, but I try my best not to let them see my anxiety. I know their dad and I taught them the skills they need to be defensive drivers, so we send them out into the world with a hug and a prayer. They might run into some issues along the way, but that’s what teaches resilience!

Mistake #3: Making Sure They Always Succeed

While it’s painful to watch our children fail, Emily L., mom of 5, hopes we will keep in mind that “failure and success are both main characters in the drama of life. To give up one is to lose the other. If children never fall, then they never experience the joy of rising in imperfect perseverance… To let them fail is to allow them the fullest experience of life.”

It’s so satisfying to watch the creative ways our kids get back up when they fall. Learning consequences of actions is so important, and we can show our kids how to act by admitting when we make mistakes ourselves. Elizabeth H., mom of 5, suggests, “Give them the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.”

Mistake #4: Dictating Their Emotions

It’s OK to feel the frustrating emotions that come with making mistakes, learning new things and being put in new situations. Model emotional resiliency for your kids and you’ll raise some empathetic kids. You want them to realize that talking things through and getting angry or crying when appropriate are a healthy part of being a human being. (side note: this includes you not freaking out when your kid misses a goal or brings home a bad grade.)

Mistake #5: Being Rigid

Sarah Logan Lyons, mom of 6, says that what’s going on right now with coronavirus is a good example of learning resilience, and she offers, “It’s not easy to be flexible when things don’t go as expected. Set a good example of how to react to unexpected situations so the kids can model your reactions. I also talk through the feelings they have when this happens and give them tools for how to deal with it in the future. We also try to look at the blessings in difficult situations and make the best of any situations.”

Mistake #6: Keeping Your Kids Constantly Entertained

If anything is going to help our kids of all ages to be more resilient as human beings, it’s what’s going on right now in the world. Everything was cancelled for a while—sports, birthday parties, church, graduations, lessons—and the changes keep coming. Kids have definitely had to learn how to keep themselves occupied by learning new skills, finding new ways to socialize from a distance and trying new things while also keeping active and staying healthy.

One final tip from Barbara F., mom of 5: “Always look for the joy in everything…it’s easy to move on when you see the light.”