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- author Jackie French

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Guest Post: Tania Louise Smith on What Resilience IS and IS NOT?

Someone recently said to me 'Tania, I know you advocate for resilience in children and you talk about building resilience in your book and articles, but my child still needs my help managing their emotions'. This was scary to hear. It became clear to me that although resilience is a buzzword, it is very easily misconstrued and most importantly misunderstood.

Resilience IS NOT a lonesome journey where one simply battles through the hard time by means of gritting teeth. It IS NOT wiping away our forbidden tears. It IS NOT pretending to be ok. Helping our children to build resilience IS NOT about letting them cry themselves to sleep when highly emotional and charged. 

It IS NOT letting them tough it out alone. It IS NOT ignoring their woes and emotions. Resilience IS a journey to which hand in hand, we as parents can demonstrate, remind, suggest, reassure and engage in.

In my book Not Too Far From My Back Door the toolkit of resilience to which children are reminded of and build upon, is multifaceted. The little child in the story expressed, my heart rained heavy tears, my eyes followed. We are taught resilience IS feeling those big emotions. It IS mourning what needs to be mourned. It IS crying those tears that hold heavy in our hearts. It IS NOT pushing away these feelings. It IS NOT burying them. Resilience IS in truly feeling them. It is the unexpressed emotions that are the true cause of concern in the mental health of our children.

I am your place to rest and recover, linger under my leaves to recharge and renew, a peaceful place just for you the trees spoke to the child in the book. We are taught resilience IS recognising when we need to retreat and reflect. Resilience IS taking the time needed to gather yourself and your thoughts. Resilience IS finding peace once again. It IS NOT 'batting through'. It IS NOT being conflictual or strong headed. Building tools of resilience IS teaching children the importance of recharging and renewing as the book Not Too Far From My Back Door suggests.

Wade in my waters for pure fun and delight little friend. I am yours to excite and enjoy, inspire and invite
 the ocean offered this advice in the story. Resilience IS knowing the importance of taking the time for fun. Building resilience IS laughter and release. It IS these times that truly strengthen our souls, in building connections to ourselves and to others. Being resilient IS NOT disengagement. It IS NOT disconnection. It IS NOT a toughened exterior. It IS NOT a closed heart and mind to protect ourselves. In encouraging connection and fun, we are protecting the mental health of our children in building strong, healthy relationships with themselves and others.

As adults and/or parents, we are on our own journeys of calling upon our own strengths and embracing our struggles in remembering how to self care and self love. We can recognise and acknowledge our difficulties in these areas. We can say 'I am really struggling with this today, maybe I need a warm bath or a long walk' out aloud for our children to hear - this IS resilience. We can say 'that made me feel really sad and that’s why I am crying today' when your children give you a cuddle when they notice your tears - this IS resilience. We can say 'I really enjoyed spending the day with you today, it made me feel happy and I felt very connected to you' in building attachment and joy - this IS building resilience. It IS being the example within our struggles which will teach the most to our children. 

Not Too Far From My Back Door reminds us that resilience is walking our way through our big feelings and emotions - not walking away from them. This is not a lonesome journey but one that is strengthened and enriched by those who love us around us. 

Tania Louise Smith is a senior social worker with experience in the fields of child protection and mental health and a mother of three children. Tania writes from a perspective of being open about feelings, being responsive to our children’s needs and building relationships with children that encourage attachment and trust. Not Too Far From My Back Door is a must have on any book shelf being read and reread with different messages surfacing as it pertains to each child and their current situation and emotional maturity.