Friday, July 19, 2013

Raising a Resilient Child

I have a great kid, brilliant really.  She is amazing.  Smart, inquisitive, compassionate, spunky, creative...and when I say creative, I mean creative.  I know that I'm her mom and well...I might be a tad biased, but I am not entirely sure I've ever met a soul as unique as Aria.

Yes, that is a Willie Nelson shirt. :)
I think creativity and imagination are wonderful things.  Truly.  I wouldn't want Aria to be anything other than the beautiful and creative little soul that she is, but I also think that her creativity comes with some heavy burdens.  She feels things so intensely.  She holds herself to impossibly high standards. She frets and she worries constantly. I find myself failing more often than not when I try to sooth her concerns.  And I feel helpless. But the worst is when I find myself feeling angry at her.  Angry because she is on her upteenth meltdown over what appears to me to be something of little significance. Angry because my life has been a practice in being laid-back and invisible and Aria forces me daily into visibility with her loudness and her discontent.  Angry because while I never had delusions that parenting would be easy, sometimes it is just so hard.  But anger leads to feelings of guilt and inadequacy, which leads to more helplessness...*sigh* which leads to more anger.  Its a vicious cycle and Aria deserves better.

So here we are. I have to find a way to help her manage her fears, her concerns, her worries.  I have to learn how to manage my own emotions to her fears, her concerns, her worries so I can be the mother she deserves.

I put out a plea for help on a closed Facebook page.  When I call out for help, its a sign that I'm at my wit's end already and that I've tried multiple things to no avail.  I got some interesting advice, some book recommendations, and whatnot, but one thing in particular stood out to me. Somebody mentioned a resiliency program for children to help them learn to weather the inevitable difficulties of life.  So I did research and I bought some books.

These books in particular:
From L to R: The Optimistic Child appears to be written by a psychologist whose work is the basis for many resiliency programs for children, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking has some pretty good reviews that hail it as very practical, Socially Strong Emotionally Secure is supposed to be full of activities to help build resiliency.
So far, what I've read speaks to me.  I'll report back on the books for those interested.  In the meantime, if you are curious about this notion of helping children develop resiliency, I did find this website for the program Reaching in...Reaching out. They have a lot of information, including a free handbook.

For those of you that have been there and done that, I'd love to hear any tips you may have.





  1. I don't have experience raising such a child, but I remember vividly BEING that kid. First of all, just know that it's not uncommon and it doesn't mean YOU'VE done anything wrong. Despite any troubles my family may have been going through I always thought of my parents as the light in the world that made it possible to face the dark. Even when they lost their tempers with me I knew it was ultimately out of love; If they didn't love and support me, they wouldn't get so frustrated when I got frustrated. And honestly, most of the problems we had (which weren't many, but they did happen) were because I was losing my sh*t because the homework assignment that I had put off until the day before it was due was OBVIOUSLY the determining factor of the rest of my life, and if I didn't get a perfect score I was going to end up living on the street or something. I can only imagine how much it must have killed my parents to have to be strong for me every other day when I stressed myself to the point of tears.
    The things they did that helped a lot (and this is when I was a little older because I don't remember being as young as Aria very well) were ear/hand massages from my mom, being forced to take a snack break (even if I had stressed myself to the point of not being hungry), sitting on the kitchen counter while my dad cooked something and talking to him about anything other than my anxieties, taking a short break to run a silly made-up errand with either parent... really anything that got me to pause, take some deep breaths, and preferably laugh. If I laughed even just once I was usually able to then breath deeper and lower my heart rate, which ultimately helped my anxiety. Because of my mom I adopted the life motto "Just Breathe," and to this day every time I feel myself beginning to lose my calm I think of that.
    Now that I'm a little older, I've had to learn my own ways to force that pause for myself. Sometimes I boil water for tea, sometimes I write or doodle, sometimes I garden. Maybe consider buying her a little plant to take care of, a journal to write in, or just find something that you two can do together for a few minutes whenever she gets stressed. Teach her breathing techniques, make her hot cocoa, go for walks.
    The world is busy, chaotic, fast, and crazy. It's no wonder she gets anxious. Provide the calm that is missing in the world. Just don't forget that you're only one person, and fits of anxiety will still happen.
    I want to end on something that's really funny, but I'm putting it here to remind you that you're not alone in this. Kids are just... emotional. And that's how it is.

    1. I didn't finish my last thought... it's been a long day. It was supposed to include:

      This picture is to remind you that you're not alone, and that sometimes kids just have meltdowns that have no rational reason other than "it's hard to be a kid."