I recently said to my 13 year old son, “I’m so sorry you had to watch me go through such a difficult breakup”. I was moved by his reply, “It’s ok, you’ve shown me that when difficult things happen it’s possible to overcome them”.
His response is actually backed up by research. A study was carried out in the Bristol area over a twenty year period on mothers and daughters. The results showed that children whose parents had experienced a difficult life event such as a serious illness had a greater sense of confidence in their ability to overcome challenges and setbacks.
Life can be hard and we need our children to have the resilience to cope. Resilience is the capacity and dynamic process of adaptively overcoming stress and adversity while maintaining normal psychological and physical functioning.
Rather than succumbing to adverse consequences of stressful events such as ptsd which can lead to feelings of anxiety and panic, to handle and overcome difficult and potentially traumatising events.
How do we support this:
1. Role model feeling fully
Honouring our grief by feeling our feelings fully allows us to process our feelings so that we can move on to the next phase of life.
I worked with a woman who was going through a bereavement, while parenting two young children. When she came to me she believed that the right thing to do was to hide her feelings from her kids. However she was finding it difficult to cope. The dissonance between the forced smile she was wearing “for the sake of the kids”, and the sadness she felt on the inside and it was making her depressed and quick to lose her temper.
I encouraged her to experiment with staying present with what she was feeling when around the children and explaining what she was feeling in a way they could understand: “Mummy is feeling sad at the moment”. This helped them to connect and empathise with her, offering hugs and bringing flowers from the garden. Moments of joy started to return to her interactions with the children.
Trying to hide your feelings can be counterproductive and show up in your child’s behaviour because they notice subtle signs that all is not well.
Give yourself a bit of time each day to just sit with whatever is coming up. Journaling and drawing can be helpful along with a practice such as meditation. Strong emotions only last about 90 seconds if we allow them fully.
2. Love them unconditionally
Our children need to know they are safe, seen and loved unconditionally to have the courage to meet the world.
3. Grow their comfort zone
Encourage them to try new things just a little outside their comfort zone. Remember not to push or force, this can be counter productive.
4. Listen to their opinions and feelings
Children have amazing opinions and insights to share. If we respect and take these seriously they will go into the world knowing their voice matters. When you face tough times, sometimes children can collaborate with us to find creative ways through.
5. Reframe problems as opportunities
Help them to see the good which can come out of a difficult situation and celebrate the fact they had the courage to try even if things didn’t go their way.
If you are going through difficult times feel free to get in contact with me email@example.com