Resiliency Training for Kids: How Discomfort Can Bring Growth

Posted April 26, 2013 by

Editor’s Note: Today’s blog comes from Darah Zeledon, mother of five and former Parent Blogger for EP — and the author of the new book Girl with the Crooked Smile…Stuck in a Moment and the Pearls of Wisdom That Pulled Her Through It. Congratulations to Darah from all of us at EP on this new journey!

When we’re out of our element and uncomfortable, we grow.  Squirming around in unfamiliar surroundings, our stomachs beset with “jitters,” we’re forced to invoke courage and creativity in order to feel “at ease.” Our minds expand and spirits stretch with each life experience we struggle to make part of us, to call our own.

Mindful of this life-enhancing discomfort, I recognize that not only am I the mother of five relentlessly inquisitive kids, but I’m also their guide. Much of what they are exposed to during childhood will help shape their beliefs about people and the world. My job is to challenge them and encourage them to flourish in each new situation.

I like to call it “resiliency training.”

When we moved last June, I mistook a K-12 charter school as the quintessential environment for my brood. But by the second grading period, I realized I’d made a grave mistake. Most advised me to stay put through year’s end; the kids had already formed tight bonds with teachers and friends, and were popular within their respective social circles. “After all,” many reasoned, “it’s a familiar routine and they’re not in any imminent danger.”

But I saw things differently.

A five star, A-rated school sat just around the corner—our boundary school. And in a matter of days, I submitted all the required paperwork, and confidently informed the kids of the impending switchover that’d soon turn their world upside down.

I never asked them if they could “handle it.” I listened to my gut, and knew that this was best for our kids. It was an abrupt transition indeed, but all part of a bigger and bolder plan for them.  I knew they’d need to endure a few days of discomfort before calling this new place their own. They’d have to push through their anxiety and prevail.

By day three, all were settled in and radiated pride. Consequently, their self-confidence grew and I find them more resilient, better equipped to withstand the stress uncertainty generates. The new school proved to be a much better place for all of them.

This summer will be another test for them. In the four years since we’ve moved back from Latin America where we lived for years, the kids have lost their Spanish and all connection to Latin America. This has gnawed at my consciousness. Instead of lamenting, I’m taking action.  We’ll rent a small house in Costa Rica and the kids will attend a local day camp, forced to integrate with the locals and communicate in their long-forgotten native tongue.  My goal for them: develop the ability to navigate “like a local” in this world, too.

Did I ask their permission? Nope. Am I worried how they’ll fare? No way. I’m the parent, the adult, their first life coach, and when new, culturally-enriching experiences, i.e. adventures, are presented as exciting opportunities, they get pumped up about it.

Wanna know something? Not once have they questioned a single logistic or asked who their friends will be, or even wondered if they’ll like it.

That’s because as parents, the vibe we transmit is contagious. When we’re jazzed about something, the kids pick up on the positive beat.

How about you? What unique, out-of-the-box experience have you recently shared as a family?

 

Read Darah’s book, Girl with the Crooked Smile, to see how she fostered a positive spirit in her family about their abrupt 2008 migration back to South Florida.

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