Updated: Jun 2, 2022
I hate the phrase “Kids are resilient.”
In all honesty I’ve used this phrase myself in the past. But the longer I’ve been an Autism mom, the more that phrase bothers me.
It’s like a sand spur. It clings to the aura of what it means to be a kid in today’s world: Strong, buoyant, able to overcome any hardship and come out even better on the other side.
But like a sand spur, it is painful. I want to pick it apart, and throw it away because here is the real truth, the flipside to “kids are resilient”:
Kids don’t always recover from the wounds life hurls at them.
The truth is WE don’t like to think about this, not as educator and especially not as parents!
We like to think that whatever life throws at our kids (in our homes or the classroom)—moving, being separated from parents, losing friends, changing schools, crushed dreams, death of loved ones, divorce, foster placement, broken hearts, disease—will just make them stronger.
And while our kids may often learn valuable lessons from going through these hardships, from the wise adults in their lives, or from their own inner voice, the truth is that hardship and struggle and pain just as often leave kids just like adults with anxiety, depression, emotionally stunted growth, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
I think of the untangling I’ve done—and still have to do—of my struggles with anxiety, depression, relational and emotional growth, and painfully unlearning poor coping mechanisms.
I think of my own children, how at times they’ve responded to difficulty, not with resilience, but with fear.
I feel we were on top of things as parents, with on-going conversations, support from friends and relatives, and therapy sessions. I’m thankful that right now our kids are in a healthy mental place.
TO THE STRUGGLING MOM I’ve learned that I can’t take my kids’ mental health for granted. Because the truth is, not every kid bounces back. Sometimes the lesson learned is to hide your feelings, your thoughts, your emotions, your very self, to bury it deep down, so no one can see. Kind of like the poor little girl in "Inside Out" who felt she needed to always be happy to please her parents. Sometimes the struggle and the pain are so great, that a precious child does not see a way out, and makes an irreversible decision. We have been seeing this more and more in schools with kids who are bullied and kids being cut off from everything because of the pandemic. They choose a path to end their pain one often with consequences for those that are left to pick up the pieces.
Kids are resilient, they say.
We have to stop slapping this panacea on our kids' pain, hoping that one day they figure out how to make lemonade out of the lemons life has thrown at them. We have to check in with our kids and often to make sure we know how they feel. Often the kids whom seem the most ok are the ones screaming for help the loudest on the inside.
If we want to raise truly resilient kids who are both emotionally and MENTALLY HEALTHY, we have to be proactive; we have to show them the way.
Because the real truth is this: Kids need support.
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