Are we teaching our kids resilience?

Peter Cosgrove MD of Futurewise Spoke on RTE’s “The Business show” on the topic of resilience, here is the audio clip below, of you can read the transcript here.

Click Here: Resilience RTE

Full Transcript:

I liken resilience with that Roly poly doll with the rounded bottom that bounces back every time it is knocked down. In movies, we love to see our heroes bouncing back from adversity. Consider Harry Potter who faces numerous challenges, from the loss of his parents to the constant threat of the dark wizard Voldemort. These heroes exemplify the belief that one can adapt and grow, even in the toughest circumstances, providing inspiration for individuals navigating their own challenges.

Today, feels like we are living in a scarier world where resilience is required more than ever. Gaza, Ukraine, the climate crisis seep into our lives daily. Evolution has us hardwired to pay attention to the negative in order to protect us from danger. The problem though, is that this negative news now follows us around in our pockets.

As parents, we want to equip our children with the skills to navigate life, yet we don’t want them to experience any discomfort or problems, so we intervene. The idea of putting our children through the same pain we went through is so intolerable that we try and shield them from worst-case scenarios.  However, we have to learn that we will not always be there, and our job is to equip them with skills to handle uncertainty and to work things out by themselves.

Failure teaches perseverance and problem-solving. It causes children to think about their actions and how to avoid repeating these mistakes in the future. To quote Tallulah Bankhead – if I had to live my life again, I’d make all the same mistakes, only sooner.

With the growing screen addiction, we are sleepwalking through days, captivated by incessant alerts from our phones, which we now give to kids as young as six years old.  These screens have increased our anxiety and are replacing real connected relationships. It’s all about instant gratification, however, if we place that expectation on our lives, we will fail to see that the most precious, wonderful things in life take effort, hard work and time.

Helping kids practice resilience involves breaking down problems into smaller parts and making practical plans. This helps them feel more in control and capable of handling challenges, making tough situations seem less overwhelming. I have found that playing family board games or card games, can be a great way to foster a safe environment for learning to take risks and make mistakes, for both kids and adults. However, parents prefer to play Top Trumps, with their kids as the object, highlighting to other parents how well the tennis, or the piano or the exams are going but rarely mentioning their child’s emotional wellbeing.

In the Odyssey the archetypal wanderer Odysseus faces gods, monsters and is tested to his limits, and he is rescued in the end by Athena his protector. However, Athena turns out to be the person who created the storm to send him off course in the first place. She forces him to improvise, problem solve and deal with adversity. We need to let out charges go into the world to make their own mistakes and deal with their own adversity. We cannot do it for them, but we can be there to pick them up when they fall. Harry Potter may have survived Voldemort, but it was with great support from friends and family and not alone.

Peter Cosgrove, Managing Director of Futurewise and author of Fun Unplugged and Family Fun Unplugged, books designed to take families off their digital devices.


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