Fostering Resilience in Youth

In my previous post, I wrote about the remarkable resilience of our Canadian Olympic athletes, and  touched on the importance of building this same quality in our young people. The ability to recover from setbacks and disappointments, and move forward in a positive way, is crucial to success in our careers, and lives in general. Here, I offer some suggestions on how you can help your children develop this important ability.

  1. Teach kids to problem-solve: I think too often, parents want to just swoop in and fix whatever problem their child might be facing. But rather than do them this disservice, why not teach them how to solve problems themselves? When a problem arises at school for example, help your child to think of strategies they might use to overcome the issue. Discuss what might happen if they choose a certain course of action vs. another one, and help them to choose the best option. Over time, your child will learn to evaluate these options on their own. Problem-solving is not only a valuable career skill, it is a crucial life skill as well, so the earlier you can teach your child to do it, the better off they will be.
  2. Don’t provide all the answers: This tip ties into the previous one. Just like problem-solving, being resourceful and finding answers oneself is a critical life skill. There isn’t always going to be someone around who can provide solutions, so knowing where to look for the needed information is key. Also, employers like workers who can take initiative and find their own answers, as opposed to those they must hand hold and supervise every step of the way.
  3. Let your kids make mistakes: The truth of the matter is that no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Do your kids a favour, and let them make mistakes once in a while. Making mistakes, and learning from them, is how we grow emotionally. I have made my share of mistakes in life, but I always try to take a lesson from them, and this has helped me greatly. Help your kids to understand that mistakes are just a natural part of the learning process, and don’t make them feel bad when they happen.
  4. Help your children manage their emotions: Perhaps one of the most difficult things for humans to do is learn how to experience our emotions, but not let them dominate our lives. We all feel such feelings as disappointment, happiness, anger and frustration from time to time, but the key is not to let any one emotion get too extreme. This can be especially important in the workplace, where certain expectations exist that we behave in an appropriate manner and according to established protocols. Rather than shielding your child from all emotions, help them instead to understand what they are feeling, and help them to put those feelings in an appropriate context.
  5. Model resilience: This is a big one. How can you expect your children to be resilient, if you lack that quality yourself? The next time you find yourself facing a setback, consider the way in which you handle it, and whether or not it sets a positive example for your child. Are you behaving in a resilient way? If not, what can you do differently? Children will emulate what they see, so try your best to model for them the qualities you want them to demonstrate in their own lives.

These are just some of the ways in which you can foster resilience in your child. None of these things can be implemented overnight, but with enough time, they will become easier and more automatic. The important takeaway is to empower your kids to bounce back from disappointment and failure, in order to move toward a more successful future.

With that in mind, what suggestions do you have for fostering resilience in youth? I would love to hear from you!






A Gold Medal in Resilience

Resilience: Ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy

The Winter Olympics recently wrapped up in Pyeongchang South Korea, and it was Canada’s best showing ever. Our athletes finished the games with a total of 29 medals, 11 of them gold. It was an excellent two weeks, with many highlights, but one major aspect stood out to me: the resilience of Canadian athletes.

A few examples:

  1. Kim Boutin. This speedskater won three medals overall, two bronze and one silver. She overcame online abuse, resulting from her being awarded a bronze medal after a South Korean skater was disqualified. Some Korean fans blamed Boutin for this development.
  2. Kaetlyn Osmond. Osmond won a bronze medal in women’s figure skating, but nearly wasn’t even in these Olympics. She almost retired from skating after breaking her leg during the 2014 season.
  3. Mark McMorris. McMorris won a bronze medal in men’s slopestyle snowboarding, yet just last year, he nearly died. McMorris was snowboarding with friends in March 2017 when he suffered serious, near-fatal injuries, which included a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, pelvic fracture, rib fractures, and a collapsed left lung.

All three of these athletes demonstrated remarkable resilience, managing to overcome injury and hardship to not only compete at the top of their sports, but also to win. All of us could benefit from their example, especially young people, who have not always been taught what it means to be resilient.

We’re living in a time of instant gratification, where young people often want to see results immediately, and aren’t willing to give things time. The rise in helicopter parenting has only compounded the problem, with parents often rushing in to protect their children from failure and disappointment. They are doing them a disservice however, since in the real world, failure is inevitable. Those who know how to cope with it, and use it as fuel to move ahead, will ultimately be successful.

Imagine if any of the athletes I mentioned above had decided to give in to frustration or despair, and had stopped competing. They never would have been at these Olympics and never would have experienced the triumph and pride in winning a medal for their country. They can look back and say they overcame these obstacles and are stronger for it.

When it comes to careers, being able to adapt to change and bounce back from disappointment and failure, is crucial for success. Further, people are increasingly finding themselves doing contract and freelance work, and full time positions are becoming harder to secure in many industries. Workers who are resilient will generally have an easier time navigating these challenges, and be more successful in the long run than those who are not. We need to do more to help our young people develop this quality, so that they are better prepared to face the future, and to thrive in whatever situation they may encounter.

For now, they could certainly benefit from studying the examples set by the athletes I’ve described here, and so many others like them.