Has your child ever been unsuccessful at something? Maybe he or she got a bad grade, or struck out at a ball game. Maybe an older sibling got to a higher level on a video game. Setbacks, even little ones, are a part of everyday life. But have you noticed how your child handles these?
A lot of research for more than 20 years has been devoted to a quality called resilience. Here’s a formal definition:
Resilience is a person’s capability to cope and thrive in the face of adversity, to recover from difficult situations and adapt to stressors.
Take Jim and John for example. Both boys are twins in the same class who did poorly on a math test. Both are disappointed. Jim responds by asking the teacher for help to understand the problems he did wrong and studying more for his next test. John responds by sulking and putting himself down, “I’m terrible at math.” He messes around in math class and doesn’t get his homework done. He doesn’t study for the next math test because he figures he’ll just fail again. So what makes the difference for these two boys? They are in the same family environment and have the same teacher. The answer is their degree of resilience.
Back in 1962, Albert Ellis proposed an ABC model to explain how resilience (or its lack) works. This model became the foundation for resilience research. In a nutshell, here is the model:
• A is the adversity—the situation or event.
• B is our belief—our explanation about why the situation happened.
• C is the consequence—the feelings and behaviors that our belief causes.
We can’t change the A (adversity), but we can change B (what we think/believe) about the adversity. The C (consequence) then follows upon our thoughts/beliefs. Jim believed he could still do the math but that he just needed more help. This led to the consequence of getting help from the teacher and studying more. John believed he was bad at math, period. This led to the consequence of messing around in class and not studying. The key to the boys’ response was where their beliefs led them.
This is also the entry point for our Faith. The core belief that we are God’s beloved children is the foundation of our identity. Whenever you can remind your children that they are loved by God and that nothing, absolutely nothing will change His love, this belief can provide them with the confidence they need to face adversities in their lives. Perhaps, we need to remember this truth ourselves. When we know God’s love for us, we can then model that love to our children. May this Lent be a time for all of us to deepen in our truest identity as beloved sons and daughters of the Father!
For more information on resilience, check out these sites:
• Video illustrating ABCs of resilience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp_tZr4qJp8
• PDF outlining the ABC model: http://www.dartmouth.edu/~eap/abcstress2.pdf
• 25 Ideas For How You Can Teach Your Kids Resilience: http://www.momentsaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/25-Ideas-For-How-You-Can-Teach-Your-Kids-Resilience.pdf