This last year has been an extraordinary chapter of our lives, where there has been a genuine concern for collective health, overstimulation and real fatigue from lockdown life, last-minute chopping and changing, ongoing uncertainty, schooling and connection via screens and the stresses of living in close quarters. When you take a look at what we have all just weathered, it is no wonder we are all feeling a little fragile. As we emerge from lockdown, which is yet another period of adjustment, feeling tired, rusty and out of practice, it is understandable that worries can loom large, but there are ways we can support our kids to boost their resilience and confidence.
The concept of resilience feels deeply relevant right now and every parent wants to foster the capacity in their kids. While we’ve all heard of it, the concept needs some myth-busting. Resilience is our ability to cope with adversity, to bounce back from big emotions and challenging experiences. It is also really important that we are clear on what resilience isn’t! Resilience doesn’t make us immune from stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions. It doesn’t mean that life doesn’t hurt. It also doesn’t mean that life won’t knock us for six sometimes, it just means that we get up sooner and dust ourselves off with greater ease. Let’s be honest, the normal and appropriate response to tough times is to struggle. It is not reasonable or helpful to set the goal to be flourishing all the time! We need to temper expectations of ourselves and our kids and to help our kids be gentle with themselves. Our comfort zone naturally shrunk with the contraction of life during lockdown, but little by little, with tenderness and encouragement, it will expand again.
What’s a healthy goal to aim for as parents? The image that I find helpful is “standing tall like a mountain”. The broad base of the mountain reminds us of our strength to stand firm, anchoring us and helping us recover from challenges. At the centre of the mountain lies calmness and composure that we can access with soothing practices. The apex of the mountain signifies hopefulness and confidence about the future. We can draw on this image to empower our children with both resilience and confidence. Even coming into the shape of the mountain, feeling the grounding of our feet against the floor, the strength of our legs, the length of our spine and the crown of the head lifting skywards, brings us into a feeling of power.
At the heart of resilience lies a skill set that we can build with our kids, as a family. To be able to bounce back from life’s challenges we need the capacity to feel our feelings and to move through them in a safe and healthy way. A growth mindset will help us, knowing that our skills and abilities aren’t fixed, we can learn and develop any strength we aspire to and that it’s ok to make mistakes, allowing us to learn the valuable lessons along the way with less self-criticism. Mindfulness is another core skill – helping us cope in tricky moments but also developing the self-awareness that is fundamental to us taking care of our needs. Compassion is also key, the capacity to be kind and tender with ourselves. For many parents, these skills weren’t modelled for us growing up, but the great gift is that we can be beginners with our kids and learn together.
Practical ways to boost our kids’ confidence. Share these exercises with your kids, even better, do them together!
• There are many ways to shine!
Spelling, grammar, numbers, reading… it’s really easy to get fixated on these things. They are important, but there are many different ways to shine beyond them! Although they might not be the topic of your school lessons, your other strengths and skills are just as valuable and useful in life!
Your strengths are things you do well, that you naturally want to do, and they fill you with energy! Just thinking and talking about them will give you a lift! But how do we know what they are? You can think about the kinds of things that fill you with excitement, things that you do well, or you can ask your parents or your friends what good things they might say about you. Write down all the different ways that you shine!
Identifying your unique talents helps you feel good about yourself and knowing your strengths can help you navigate tricky things. Using your strengths feels fabulous! It helps to remember that we all have different superpowers and you don’t have to be brilliant at everything. We all have things we do well and we all have things we need to work on, even the brainy bunch and the sports stars. Feeling down on yourself? Remember, you don’t have to be perfect. You are enough! You have your very own superpowers that the world needs.
• Use your body!
Get ready for a power pose! Try this simple and fun yoga sequence and feel your confidence grow.
Stand up tall with your feet hip-width apart and arms down by your sides. Take a deep breath in through your nose, raising your arms out to the sides and up above your head. Look up and feel your mood lift up too. As you breathe out through your nose, slowly lower your arms back down and look forwards with a real sense of intent. There are no floppy spaghetti arms here – as you move you are stretching right to your fingertips, making it known that you have every right to be here and you have every right to take up space. Take 6 of these assertive breaths.
• Come back to the breath
When you feel like you need soothing, try this super easy “Take 5” exercise. Hold out your hand and stretch it like a star. With the pointer finger of your other hand, you’re going to trace the outline of your hand, starting at the base of the thumb. As you breathe in through your nose, trace up to the tip of your thumb, pause a moment, and as you breathe out through pursed lips (like you’re blowing out a candle), slowly trace down your thumb. Continue tracing up and down each finger. By the time you’ve finished, you’ve taken five slow, relaxed breaths. Do you feel a little calmer or do you want to take another five?
It can take some practice, but your breathing can be one of the most powerful ways to change how you feel. Taking a few relaxed breaths is like hitting a switch, turning on the calm mode where you can focus your mind and feel confident. It can even help you get to sleep. Breathe better to feel better! This is a superpower we all possess.
By Suzy Reading
Suzy is a mother of two, an author, Chartered Psychologist and Coach. She specialises in self-care, helping people manage their stress, emotions, and energetic bank balance. It was her life experience of motherhood colliding with the terminal illness of her father that sparked her passion for self-care which she now teaches to her clients, young and old, to cope during periods of stress, loss and change and to boost their resilience in the face of future challenges. Suzy is on the editorial board for Motherdom Magazine, the Psychology Expert for wellbeing brand Neom Organics and is a founding member of the ‘Nourish’ app. She figure-skated her way through her childhood, growing up on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now makes her home in the hills of Hertfordshire, UK. Her first book ‘The Self-Care Revolution’ published by Aster came out in 2017, 'Stand Tall Like a Mountain: Mindfulness & Self-Care for Children and Parents' and 'The Little Book of Self-Care’ came out in 2019. ‘Self-Care for Tough Times’ and her first children’s book ‘This Book Will (Help) Make You Happy’ by Wren & Rook are both hot off the press.