Parenting and resilience. Two words that feel more important now than ever. What does it mean to teach resilience, when the rug of normal has been pulled out from underneath us? There are global realities and opportunities that will require us to be creative and will demand new things from us and from our children. I don’t want to parent from a place of fear, but I also want to live in a place of honesty.
How do I teach and model resilience for my daughter and for this future she will inherit?
While we all know these times are “unprecedented”, we are not the first parents to ask ourselves these questions. What can those who found ways to thrive after war and unrest tell us? What did their parents do? How can we learn from them?
So I pulled up a chair and had an old-fashioned phone call to talk about these questions with my dear friend Lourdes Zuniga. Lourdes is the extremely talented and visionary Executive Director of the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas. She grew up in Lima, Peru during a time of social and political unrest that burst the bubble of her normal happy childhood. From her bedroom, she heard bombs falling. Her world centered around the daily disruptions that prevented anything from returning to normal.
She describes that time: As a child I experienced the disrupting sense of confusion and at times fear due to the 10 years of revolutionary violent activity in my country. The curfews, the early awakens to line up at the store to get a pound of rice or sugar (1 per person), the sudden candle (light) dinners because an electric tower was blown up.
But I have wise parents that talked to me and reassured me things were going to be ok (even if they themselves didn’t know). They built confidence in me to always find a way, to calmly sort things out and, as long as we are all together helping each other, we will get through anything.
Growing up under such extreme circumstances did not slow Lourdes down. She is well traveled and passionate. (Y’all – she’s got some stories!) She’s fearlessly pursued her interests and dreams, often looking back on the lessons that she learned from her parents under the worst of national circumstances.
Together we brainstormed the following tips to help teach resilience:
- Listen. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, give your kid a safe space to share feelings, ask questions, and connect with you directly.
- The gaps and your worries are a strength – not a weakness. You kids will hear the worry in your voice and note your hesitation to answer certain questions. That’s ok. It shows them that you are struggling too. It also shows them that you are worrying for them. You are taking care of the bigger things so they can just be kids. This validates their fears while also not oversharing the weight that belongs on adult shoulders.
- Show them how to be resilient. Now and in real time, show them how to acknowledge their emotions, how to think through their options, how to make choices and be flexible. Allow them to learn from you how to handle the curveballs that life throws and instill in them a confidence that they can figure it out.
- Meet them where they are, not where you are. Lourdes was more reserved than her sisters. While her sisters might cry or express their feelings immediately and openly, Lourdes would wait until things were quiet, often when she was alone. Her parents intentionally sought her out and made time to talk with her alone and quietly, in her comfort zone.
- Know that even if it’s tough now, the hard stuff can get better. Lourdes and her mother are still very close, even if geographically separate. She turns to her for advice and comfort – and for the little everyday things. Her adventurous spirit is bolstered and sustained by the lessons she learned so early from her parents. When personal challenges – or large-scale pandemics – hit, she returns to those lessons for solace and grounding. She feels deeply and keeps going, because she and her family are stronger for what they’ve been through together. To this day, I call her when I’m scared, just to hear her voice.
- Connect them empathetically with the world outside. Her parents created opportunities for Lourdes and her sisters to volunteer, took them to visit parts of the city that did not look like their neighborhood, and talked with them about their unique privilege and blessings. #weareallinthistogether
Be safe out there. Be kind. Be resilient.
Photo Credit :: Allison Turpen Photography