Can resiliency be taught to a child with no life experience? Sure, but parents must actively foster resilience in their kids. Usually individuals become resilient after they've endured hardships and disappointments. Kids, and especially white, cisgender kids who grow up in middle-class households, don't go through too many hardships. So while it's not too difficult to look up ways to raise resilient kids in today's world, we really won't know if these strategies work until our children are on their own and are experiencing some sort of struggle. But I say there's no harm in trying to do our best, as parents, to teach our kids the necessary skills that will allow them to bounce back when life kicks them down. Plus, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), building resilience gives your child the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress," and that can't be a bad thing.
I teach a college preparation course and, as part of the college admissions process, many colleges ask students to write personal essays about resiliency. When I taught that course in the suburbs, to mainly upper-middle class individuals, the students often struggled for the right words because, well, they've never faced any kind of hardship. Some students remember standing up to their bullies in middle school and others recall a time they failed a test or lost a game. But many of these kids didn't really understand resiliency. Many of their parents help with or do their projects and papers. Many intervene in their social lives and fight their battles. And hey, I get it. No parent wants to see her kid struggle and fail. But the truth is, kids have to struggle and fail in order to become resilient. Now that I teach in the city, the story is different. Many of my current students know how to handle adversity. Unfortunately, life trained them pretty early on.
I come from a family of immigrants. We had very little when we came to this country and my parents worked hard for everything we had. My brother and I always knew we couldn't have everything we wanted, and we realized our parents were doing the best they could. We were laughed at in school for wearing "weird" and mismatched clothes, which were donated to us. We had to get jobs as soon as we were old enough to obtain working papers. We had to pay our way through college, our own cars, and our own hobbies. Our parents gave us everything they could, but they couldn't afford many luxuries. So we learned quickly how to handle and persevere through a number of related hardships.
My kids, however, are growing up in a middle-class family. They have everything they need and want. They participate in enrichment activities. They go to one of the best rated schools in the country and they are spoiled. My partner and I don't try to spoil them. We don't buy them things or toys, but they are still spoiled by our environment. So, how do we teach them resiliency? Well, below are some of the ways we are trying to do just that: