The Importance of Teaching Children to Become Resilient

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Have you ever considered the importance of teaching children to become resilient?

For us, as adults, it’s easy to get frustrated these days. Whether you are a big-picture person, looking at the trends in surveillance technology and “The Great Reset” hubris, or an ordinary person frustrated by spiking prices and constant supply headaches. Many of us have had to tap into our inner resources to stand resilient in the face of these challenges.

How can we teach kids to do the same? How do we teach our children the vital skill of resilience?

Helping your children find their tribe

Many of us found our friendships and family relationships changed over the past year. I know my children have dealt with the same thing. With remote schooling, they could not see friends in person anymore. My children found, after talking online, many of their friends held widely different views on what has been happening. For example, my children have had former friends tell them it’s the fault of “people like us” (the vaccine-hesitant) that old people are all dying.  

It’s worth the effort to help your kids find at least one or two kids with similar interests and values. My daughter has a Canadian pen pal who is very like-minded. They don’t correspond super regularly, but it’s enough for my daughter to know she’s not alone. My boys know to practice OPSEC in general, but we know a couple of families in town around whom we can speak freely.  

Taking care of your own mental health will help your children

If you don’t lose it every time the power goes out or the toilet clogs, they probably won’t either. We had so many plumbing problems when I first got on septic. I was constantly plunging. There were plenty of tears and frustration at first, but as I got better at managing clogs, it just became more of a regular chore. These days, the kids only tell me about a clog if it’s a spectacularly bad one. Most of the time, they get the plunger and deal with it themselves. No drama.

The same mentality applies in terms of eating habits. If all of your meals are made “just right” at very set times, your kids will see you being picky about food and will be less likely to roll with changes. I’ve written before about spiking commodity prices and how most of us will have to make adjustments in terms of grocery shopping. Again, if you can handle these changes gracefully and be mentally resilient, your kids probably will too. 

Be honest without being alarming

I’m not a big fan of lying and saying everything is fine when it isn’t. It’s important to teach kids about disasters and crises without scaring them. Teenagers, in general, have pretty good BS detectors. I need to watch my mouth and avoid complaining too much because I don’t want to drag the family down with me. I try to be honest, and so far, my kids have handled changes in our routine as well as can be expected.    

For example, I have been making my own bread for well over a decade. However, I could not find yeast in the stores for months. Fortunately, one of my neighbors kept a sourdough starter and was willing to share it with me. We’ve been mainly eating sourdough ever since. My kids aren’t crazy about it, but they have seen the shelves at the store. 

They understand.

Get fit, stay fit

Exercise can be a great way to spend quality time with your children and learn about their abilities and skill levels. Bringing along a friend or two can be interesting, to observe how all the kids do with different group dynamics.  

I have three children, and my youngest child’s best friend, I’ll call him Joseph, is the oldest of three. We invited Joseph on a hike recently. I planned on a hike of approximately three miles at elevation. I know my children can do that because we’ve done many hikes similar to my planned one. I asked Joseph’s parents what they thought. They were willing to let Joseph give it a shot but cautioned me he’d never done anything like that before, he tended to get hot and tired quickly, and he may need his inhaler.

I packed plenty of water, snacks, and Gatorade and agreed that we would stop as soon as Joseph needed to. Well, not only did Joseph do the whole three miles, but he also climbed a lot of rocks along the trail and wanted to climb more. I had to be the one to call it quits, mostly because I wanted to drive home before rush hour.

Joseph’s parents and I learned a lot. We had a good discussion afterward. When Joseph saw his friend keeping up with older and taller teenagers, I’m pretty sure it motivated him far more than hiking with his little sisters. My kids enjoyed the hike because Joseph is a genuinely funny, interesting kid. I believe Joseph gained a lot of confidence. We all won.  

Wisely choosing your children’s entertainment can help

I am on the extremely strict end, in some ways. My children have a stupid phone to talk and send photos to friends. However, there is no Snapchat, TikTok, or Instagram. In general, if we want to socialize, we try to meet people in person. Otherwise, we watch DVDs or read books.

One of the beauties surrounding books is that they aren’t grid-dependent. People have been passing long winter nights in front of the fire, telling stores for millennia. Going back to that won’t be the worst thing by a long shot if the grid breaks down.

We read a lot of books and find it provides numerous topics for conversation. 

The right books can give children a great deal of perspective

For example, my teenage daughter complained a lot about me not treating her like an adult and letting her listen to “adult conversations.”

So I let her read Yeonmi Park’s autobiography, In Order to Live. It’s a well-written, VERY adult book, in many ways. It’s the true story of a thirteen-year-old girl escaping North Korea. My daughter burned through it in two days because she kept wanting to know what would happen next. It is a relatively recent book, and you can watch Yeonmi Park giving interviews on YouTube to put a face to the woman in the story. My daughter learned a lot about what some people do to survive.

Good books can give children ideas about what to do with their time

Thirty years ago, children didn’t need an electrical grid and the world wide web to stay entertained. I played some computer games when I was younger, but there was a lot more street hockey and exploring outdoors. Reading books about how children lived before can give your children ideas and help them create their own, grid-independent entertainment.

When most of us think of childhood and adolescence now, we think of school, sports, music, and fun trips. As a parent, that’s what I hear most other parents discussing. And I do believe there is value in those activities, but we saw last year how quickly those things could disappear. I would have been devastated if marching band stopped for me as a high schooler the way activities stopped for high schoolers last year.

Nothing matches the feeling of being a needed team member

There is always work to be done. What projects you do together will depend significantly on the ages and abilities of your children and your living situation. Having the kids involved in gardening is an option for many people. Some fortunate folks like myself have a variety of farm projects to keep everyone busy. However, even if you live in a high-rise, your younger children can still help prepare food.

Older children can help with meal plans and shop. If you’ve had severe grocery shortages in your area, bringing your children to the store with you so you can see what’s available and plan accordingly will be very instructive. Try to function as a team, particularly if you have teenagers.  

It’s important to find meaningful projects to work on together.

It’s also important to let your children fail and to let them see you fail

I find it highly unlikely that things will “go back to normal.” Between vaccine passports, supply chain problems, international tensions, and the absolute destruction of our currency, I don’t see a way out of the mess we’re in without some pain. And it would be naïve in the extreme to think that we can buy all the right gear, stock up on ammo, and come out of the zombie apocalypse unscathed. By exposing your kids to small, manageable failures and frustrations, they will be more prepared for more significant problems that may arise.

I’ve had a significant fall from grace in my life. I was once a suburban wife and mom, primarily suitable for office work and child-raising. Then, I found myself alone with my kids in a semi-rural area, in a poorly maintained old cabin, living on a fraction of the income I thought I would have at my disposal. 

Yes, I learned a lot over the years, and we now have a comfortable, productive home. But it was a rocky road. Big changes are always painful, and no amount of gear will change that. Your mindset will. Your ability to fail and still get up to face the next day will.   

Your children can be a liability or an asset

Small children are a ton of work. There’s no way around it. But if you have middle and high school-age children, they can be your biggest allies if adequately prepared. My kids are my biggest support network these days because we’re used to working together. In our downtime, we talk, and I try to help them understand as much as they can.  

Selco talks about survival circles in this article and you can gain access to the webinar on the same topic here. Ideally, your children should be in the smallest of your small circles. By helping them become more capable and resilient, it will make your little circle more able to withstand whatever life throws at it.

How do you teach your children to be more resilient?

Is teaching your kids to be resilient something you work on, or do you try to protect them from the harsher aspects of life? If you are teaching children to be resilient and strong, what methods are you using? Do you have any success stories to share? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

About Joanna

Joanna has been homeschooling three children since 2012. In 2014, she moved to the High Plains of Colorado. She and her children began a little homestead, gardening and raising chickens for eggs and meat. One animal led to another, and these days they have livestock guardian dogs, chickens, geese, ducks, alpacas, goats, pigs, and one very spoiled cat.

Joanna Miller

Joanna Miller

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  • I raised two very resilient children and am working on the grandkids.
    I’m tired of seeing quitters getting all the glory and publicity on tv and social media for being babies. It causes me an uphill battle with mine because they think that’s how it is supposed to be.
    Life’s hard but it’ll be enjoyable when you learn how to deal with it.

    • Amen on the quitters. My kids were taught, when you start something, you finish it, even if you hate it. When it’s done, then you don’t have to do it again.

      • If you are referring to the two female athletes who withdrew due to the state of their mental health, a pox on you.
        I’ve seen many parents (including an in-law) who put their kids into every imaginable activity. All too often to abdicate having to be a parent. Kids weren’t meant to have every minute of their day filled with planned activity. If a child signed up for soccer by his/her parent wanted to play soccer, finishing the season isn’t unreasonable. But if the kid was signed up just to get him/her out of the parents hair, then not finishing is not unreasonable.
        I agree kids needs to learn how to entertain themselves. I distinctly remember one child’s kindergarten classmate. Only child and up until he started school, mom was with him every minute of the day – only mom. No play dates etc. Suffice it to say the kid did not have an easy time dealing with his “new world”. Also say college males whose moms express mailed the latest video game, called them in the morning, and visited to clean their dorm room. IMHO, this is the reason we few men these days. Most are still boys despite their age.

        • Pox on me? ???? Selena you wish a virus on me wow ok.
          That’ll come back to bite you.

          I don’t watch sports because they are crybabies and spoiled. The last football game I watched was the Super Bowl where Janet Jackson pulls her wardrobe malfunction stunt. I do have my grandkids in some. It’s not a forced thing and their parents decide what’s what. My job is to support and help teach.
          I raised my kids playing and even competing. If they started a sport they finished the season. That’s the rule. There are exceptions such as injury etc. I allowed my son to quit sue to an abusive coach we had to call the cops on. The other exception was things that don’t have seasons and are constants so when they quit they simply explained why and I explained why it was important to quit for the right reasons. Same with their first jobs.

          As far as the 2 your referring to I don’t really have enough info to know what happened. On the surface it looks weak. We got this lady named Nadi Komonche that used to live over here that won gold with an injury and taught for years after. After that little worm dr raping them girl athletes all those years there’s no telling if their minds might be busted with the goings on of sports. You “fans” are the ones supporting it as well as them being in their knees being oppressed into million dollar careers for playing a kids game.

          Had chicken pox at 25 and only had a 50% chance of living when they took me in. Pox on me ???? I made it cause I Ain’t A QUITTER

          • -Matt in OK,
            Yeah, I was never a big sports fan. I could appreciate a good game between two well matched teams.
            Or the individual accomplishment and talent of player.
            But not to the point I cared to follow any team or single person year after year.

            Now, since sports have gone all woke, even less interested in it now.
            Just watched HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Based off what I have read about the Olympics, he seems to be spot on.

            As for the one gymnast who withdrew from the team event, she recognized she could not handle the stress, and rather then take the risk of putting the team’s chances of a win in jeopardy, she bowed out and let someone else step up.
            I see that as more strength and courage than weakness.

            To quote Harry Callahan (as played by Clint Eastwood), “A man has to know his limitations.”
            Or in this case, a woman.

            • “As for the one gymnast who withdrew from the team event, she recognized she could not handle the stress, and rather then take the risk of putting the team’s chances of a win in jeopardy, she bowed out and let someone else step up.
              I see that as more strength and courage than weakness.”

              I agree – maturity also factors into to making such a decision. Which is why I questioned if she and the tennis player were being labeled as “quitters”.

              • As I stated previously, the Olympics has gone “woke.”
                I am perfectly indifferent to their political ideologies. As such, I am indifferent if they win, lose, or grow mushrooms in their crack.
                Woke Team USA has no relevance to me.
                I would be more inclined to give medals to my goats for their antics vs some of those “woke” athletes.

                • Exactly
                  Nothing changed in my life when they lose or win. Chores need doing, bills need paying and I’ve no sense of pride in them and their doings all brave and empowered.

                  The maximum effective range of an excuse is zero meters

    • Matt, you reminded me of a saying credited to John Wayne: “Life Is Hard… it’s even Harder when you’re stupid”. I highly suspect that Life is about to become the hardest I’ve ever seen… and I’m only 66. I remember the stories my mother told me about her parents going through the Great Depression – things were tough – really tough, but was also during the time when the vast majority of the population had solid morals and a strong belief in God… this time around, I think we’re going to be skipping anything resembling the great depression and going straight to phrase: “…death is coming and hell is following close behind…”. Rev 6:8

      • “If your gonna be stupid then you’d best be tough” is a saying I’ve heard for years.
        Quitters are neither therefore it is hard. Even worse is the ones who never try anything but have expectations is something.

  • +1 on the books.
    Books that have characters that rise to the occasion and over come adversity.
    Well written characters with good characteristics.
    It may be a old cliche, but battle between good and evil are generally good ones.
    Terry Brooks original Shannara trilogy, David Eddings Belgariad series, Raymond E. Feist Riftwar Cycle all come to mind.

  • My Dad had this thing where he made you do a task the hard way before you could do it the easy way. Taught me to understand process and thinking through things. My mother taught me to grocery shop; we were always on a tight budget, but I went every week with her and I still use those lessons/ math in our household. She and my Gram taught me to bake and can goods as well. My father also taught financial lessons to me that served me well when I left their home. The military tacked on to this foundation too. When I married my partner I became a step-mom, and while I called my own mother for advice pretty often, she was an adult until she didn’t act like one. She was motivated by that to embrace maturity because we listened to her and took her seriously. To this day, she is much better off than her peers.

  • Your(the adult) attitude will have the greatest impact on your children’s ability to adapt. If you portray a ” I/we can do it” attitude they will follow

  • Camping.
    Get kids out at a young age, get their own pack. Have them carry their own sleeping bag, their snacks, water, their teddy bear or blanket if they are so inclined.
    Start out with small one night trips. A short hike to the camping site. Set up the tent, gather fire wood, cook over the fire. Tell stories, watch the stars come out.
    Then, every year, make the hiking aspect of the trip a little longer.
    Then two or three over night camping trips.
    When they are old enough, give them the responsibility of different parts of the trip: Gathering fire wood and even starting the fire safely. Setting up the tent. Getting and filtering water. Teach them how to use a camp stove, or cook over the fire.
    Make it into an adventure.

    Thinking back on it now, I think I was the only kid in the neighborhood who would go camping on a regular basis.

  • There is an old Country song by the artist Rodney Atkins which sums up being resilient ,

    ” If you’re going through hell keep on going, don’t slow down , if you’re scared don’t show it, you might get out before the Devil even knows you’re there.

    that and Romans 8:28

    • What does this have to do with the conversation? Let’s stay on topic and not post things just to aggravate other people, please.

  • Could not agree more with taking them camping. My city kids had a lot more skills and resilience than their peers who never left the city. Two of my girls also thank me for teaching them the importance of having a stocked pantry and shopping frugally.

  • My household moved a lot, and I have to say, having to learn to deal with a lot of different people and situations is a great way of becoming resilient. I don’t have kids, but I was a teacher for a while. One of the main lessons I tried to teach kids was a simple one: “actions have consequences”. I was always like: “Yeah, you can do that, but if you do that then this is what will probably happen to you.”

  • I grew up reading everything from Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to Heinlein. A lot of trash too. A really good series for older kids, especially those who love roleplaying games, is the Guardians of the Flame series by Joel Rosenberg. Amazing books and they have some really interesting characters.

    I grew up before internet, before cell phones, etc, and was perfectly capable of entertaining myself. The thing that worries me is that in some places some people apparently consider chores child abuse, and people think you are a terrible parent if you don’t have the supervised every second of the day. I’m glad I grew up before these times and I’m glad I never had children.

    • Ditto that! My parents taught me self-reliance the hard way, but I did learn it. I spent a great deal of time reading, and would recommend Foundation by Asimov among others. I felt deeply put out at the age of 10 having to help my Gramma can, but now I know how, plus I have a lot of experience washing jars LOL. I was mopping out beer coolers at 14 and pouring the stuff at 17, which likely kept me out of lots of trouble plus taught me both business and a work ethic. Running my mother’s rent check to the office every month taught me about paying bills on time. Chores aren’t child abuse. They’re life lessons. In my day I could go out for Halloween until midnight without worrying, and I lived in a bad neighborhood. These days it’s daylight hours only! What a way to ruin a great holiday.

      And I’m also glad that I don’t have children. I wouldn’t wish these times upon anyone.

  • Either life sucks or its an adventure. I prefere adventure.

    I grew up the formative years mostly in big cities but my parents made sure I knew about camping and country things. When we visited grandma in Florida I always helped her in the garden then the kitchen. I helped Dad on construction sites and we worked on vehicles together. I handed him whatever tool he asked for as a way to learn about tools. I could drive a nail straight before age 5. When we lived the the LA area I learned knot tying, directions, and more.

    When we moved to an actual rural unincorporated community I told mom we’d moved to Heaven. I loved it. A neighbor owned horses and gave me and another neighbor girl permission to ride when we wanted. Nothing compared to grabbing a handful of mane and ridding bareback without a halter even. I ran the hills that summer from sun up till sundown. Dad bought my first hunting knife. I killed my first rattler with it. I took honors in campcraft. I reinforced the foraging Mom had taught me when I was much younger. I loved country and have lived country or very small town since. I’m still a learner and a doer.

    I raised my kids mostly in country areas. They ran the reservation we lived on for a while then they climbed and m earned d the mountain above where I still live.

    Each is a prepper in their own way in the area where they live. All are married and doing fine. Smart adults. I’d bet my life on any one of them. They all think things through and make sense of life without over thinking it… except maybe one, and if its possible, he’s way too smart and logical.

    Each figured out a way that worked for them to earn money as a teen. Each followed their own path to a career. At times they worked with me on my income paths and learned a lot about how to be independent.

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