Updated: Oct 20, 2020
Mr Splat and Resilience.
I often worry that my children are growing up in a bubble. We live in a developed country, in a cushy lifestyle with all our needs met. But what would happen if it all went wrong? Are they resilient enough? Will they cope? Am I mollycoddling them?
They are used to ordering what they need by pressing a button for a next day delivery. They can choose what to watch, NOW, on Netflix without interruptions. When they were younger I worried thinking they hadn't had any major challenges to test their resilience skills, other than having to deal with very long advertisement breaks in Spanish TV, it does test your patience and ability to bounce back for sure!
However, when they were a bit older they did have to confront losing a few people they really loved in our family. And through talking (or shouting) it out, feeling it and letting time do its healing, they live with their loss and keep going.
And now, even within our bubble, for the past few years all children have been having to live with all the petrifying information about climate change, the possibility of being at the point of no return for the Earth to be habitable in the future. Awareness is essential but scary. Yet they just take it, learn, they do what they can about it and get on with their lives with that knowledge. As a child I was worried for months because my dad told me Venice could be under water by the time I was an adult. I am now telling my children that the whole world could be under water and they are still finding ways to be kids, play, learn, laugh, grow, try. Go kids!!!!
More recently they have been dealing with pre- teen years, big exams, changing into secondary school but even more than that: they are growing up with Tick tok and mobile phones, cyber bullying and all sorts of social media and "perfect", glossy ideals to try to turn their lives into. Wow! Its a tall order and children are finding their way.
So it turns out it is true that 99% of the things we worry about never happen. I didn't need to worry about them being too comfortable! Life will bring enough situations along to practice resilience. I also didn't need to worry about whether they were resilient enough or not for extreme situations since “Bam Wham!" We are hit with a global pandemic and we are all on lockdown and they are super resilient! Children around the world including my own, who have been used to the freedom of walking about all their lives, have just had to adapt to being in the house, dealing with an unknown future, virtual/home schooling and all our plans of spending time with friends and family are now on hold. And they are being amazing! I am completely in awe of how they have understood there is no choice, they just have to keep going within our four walls and make the most of it. I am really proud of the resilience they are showing in a situation that really matters.
This week I listened to Emiliya Zhivotovskaya (The Flourishing Centre) talk about Resilience in the amazing Mindful in May challenge. She talked about how we are naturally wired to be resilient during major life circumstances so where we need resilience more is in the daily grind of little things that bring us down. For a start we spend a lot of time going round in circles with what she calls 'Judgment thoughts' (ie. what others think of you, what you think of others) and 'worry thoughts'. (million what ifs and worries that flood our brains).
I do find this daily resilience test comes up for our children and us as adults constantly. It turns out we do have plenty of opportunity to practice resilience with the little things. They may come home upset because they have been left out of a party, or something happened that didn't feel fair, or they think someone doesn't like them, or they are angry and don't like someone else, worries about exams not going well, feeling they don't have enough friends and the eternal not feeling good enough in a world set up for competition. Those come up often for us to chat through and for them to find ways of coping and bouncing back.
The first step towards resilience building as Emiliya Zhivotovskaya proposes is to be aware of these thoughts so we can be ready to question them. We need to catch ourselves when we are being judgemental against others or against ourselves and remember that: ”Thoughts are real but not true" (Tsokni Rinponche). So we can stop guessing what others think of us, we can stop being horrid to ourselves and stop comparing ourselves to others. Instead we can learn to love ourselves and others as we are, now. But that does take practice! I am so grateful for these tools and thoughts to help myself and the children as we find our way and grow together.
I was thinking about all this years ago when I wrote Mr Splat to try to explain what I meant to the kids. Here it is as a podcast.