Stories of Resilience: The Thompson Family
We’re sharing the Thompson family’s story as part of our Raising Resilience initiative, which equips caregivers with tools to teach kids how to cope with challenges, manage stress and ultimately make healthy choices throughout their lives.
The Thompsons' story of resilience
Atlanta mom Nicole Thompson is doing things a little differently from how she grew up. When she was young, the grown-ups in Nicole’s life tried to protect her from the hard things they were facing—they didn’t want Nicole to see their pain or flaws. But as much as they wanted to protect her from things that were overwhelming, stressful or difficult, she’s learned that sometimes it can do more harm than good.
Instead of completely shielding their two daughters, Nicole and her husband Khalil are open about some of the challenges they’re going through and how they feel. Expressing their own feelings creates a safe space for their daughters to do the same. Nicole and Khalil’s girls feel confident confiding in their parents about whatever they’re feeling, knowing that their parents will listen and help them work through it.
Building resilience is an ongoing journey. And teaching kids how to express, work through feelings and cope in healthy ways is an important step in helping them learn how to handle life’s ups and downs.
Building resilience through role modeling
You’ve probably heard that actions speak louder than words, and this is especially true with kids. Although it’s important to be mindful of our words, kids are probably watching our actions more than they’re listening to what we say.
How can we ask kids to open up about what they’re feeling and going through when they don’t see us doing the same? Or how do we expect them to cope in healthy ways when they’re having a hard time if we don’t do it ourselves? Kids need us to model what we’d like them to learn.
Here are some ways you can be a positive role model to build resilience in kids:
- Talk openly about all feelings to help your kids learn that no feeling is good or bad, positive or negative, or off limits.
- Validate all feelings, and make it clear that it’s OK and normal to feel anything. When we normalize and validate feelings, we create a safe and supportive environment for kids and teens to talk openly. The safer they feel, the more likely they are to explore their feelings and practice naming and expressing them.
- Teach that setbacks and challenges are a normal part of life. They create opportunities for growth.
- Acknowledge no one’s perfect, and that it’s OK to make mistakes. We can teach kids that failing doesn’t make them a failure. It’s a normal part of life and to be expected.
- Show healthy ways to cope with stress. It’s unreasonable to ask kids to take some deep breaths and count to 10 if every time we’re stressed and overwhelmed, we turn to unhealthy coping strategies, like shutting down or yelling. Show them healthy ways to cope: “I’m going to go for a run to help clear my head.”
- Be willing to apologize and admit when you’re wrong. Try saying something like, “It wasn’t OK for me to raise my voice when I was frustrated. I’m sorry I lost my cool.” We can say sorry to other family members, too, in front of our kids. Sometimes families experience conflict, and that’s OK as long as we show kids how to make up, admit wrongdoing and apologize.
If you’re already doing some of these things, that’s great. If not, it’s never too late to start. To learn more about building resilience in your child, check out our Raising Resilience initiative.