One topic that I have been pondering lately is how families manage adversity and teach their children to be resilient. I ran across a recent study that gave me both hope and some concrete ideas for helping our children.
The authors did an in-depth analysis of the National Survey of Children’s Health data from 2016 and 2017. They looked at measures of childhood flourishing, such as whether the child shows curiosity, works to finish tasks, and stays calm when faced with a challenge. They then cross-referenced those to questions designed to measure family resilience. They found that the families with the highest self-reported resilience were most likely to have flourishing children. The resilience factors with the strongest association were being able to “talk about things that really matter.” Other attributes with a high correlation were facing problems as a family by (1) talking together about what to do, (2) working together to solve the problems, (3) knowing that they had strengths to draw on, and (4) staying hopeful even in difficult times.
I think it’s significant that 3 of the 5 factors involve working together and communicating as a family. Talking with children can be difficult — parents of teenagers know that fact better than anyone — but it’s essential to a family’s success.
As our children grew older, my husband and I realized that we had to affirmatively carve out time to talk as a family. Teenagers typically want to be in their rooms, talking to their friends — in fact, anywhere but talking to their parents. Our work schedules never allowed for frequent family dinners, but we insisted on a family dinner, either in-home or in a restaurant, at least once a week. Even when we didn’t have any crises — or only the usual ones — the exercise of comparing notes about our various challenges during the week was invaluable. We also discovered that even when we were angry with each other, having to face each other across a table and find positive topics of conversation helped heal any rifts.
Your family may be able to find that time during car rides (a captive audience is always a good opportunity) or family game night. Find what works for your family and guard that time jealously. The more you practice talking to each other, the more you will be able to communicate when you need it most.