Last week, I covered the first bottom line of resilience, according to Kenneth Ginsburg, author of “Building Resilience in Children and Teens:” Young people will be resilient when the important adults in their lives believe in them unconditionally and hold them to high expectations.
Now for the second bottom line, where the rubber meets the road: As the important adults in young people’s lives, what we do to model healthy resilience strategies is more important than anything we say about them, especially as parents. “Do as I say, not as I do” is simply not as effective as modeling the resilient mindset during stressful times.
Whether they are toddlers or teens, children observe parents closely. If we show them negative ways of coping with our own stress, they will follow our example.
Ginsburg explains: “If we rant at the driver who cut into our traffic lane, our kids will assume that road rage is acceptable. If we drink heavily after work each evening, we’re sending the message that alcohol is an acceptable stress reliever. If we binge on junk food whenever we are anxious, they are likely to do the same.”
On the other hand, if parents talk about their anger or discuss how the day’s work was tense and exhausting, they send the message that talking about frustration and stress is a healthy way to vent. Or they can practice yoga, or go for a run or a hike after a bad day at work, taking time for themselves to relax before rushing to make dinner.
As parents, we are the models who demonstrate healthy coping strategies. We’re the ones who, through our example, make it safe to admit vulnerability and personal limitations. When we acknowledge and address problems, we reject stigma associated with imperfection. When we reach our limits and reach out to others, we model that strong people seek support and guidance.
The well-being of your child rests on your health and personal resilience. Caring for yourself is not selfish — it is a selfless and strategic act of good parenting. Parenting is a long-haul proposition. Burnout is simply not an option. Maintaining your interests, addressing your needs, and relieving your stress with healthy coping strategies are precisely what give you the energy to give to others.
According to Ginsburg, the greatest gift you can give your child is to live a balanced life and to demonstrate that when life inevitably offers you challenges, you take the active steps needed to get back on track.
He offers a 10-point plan to help manage stress divided into four parts: tackling the problem, taking care of myself, dealing with emotions, and making the world a better place available at www.fosteringresilience.com.
Next week: developing competence.
Teri Andrews Rinne is the children’s services librarian at the Truckee Library, 10031 Levon Ave. Call 530-582-7846 or visit www.mynevadacounty.com/library.