The rules of parents are all but three. Love, Limit and Let them be. – Elaine M. Ward
“For the hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world” is such a memorable quote that I took to heart the day I cradled my beautiful baby in my arms. The concept that your child becomes in their life starts with what they learn from their moms bore quite a big responsibility. As much as I want to give them the best in life, things are never perfect, you see.
Right after Luijoe, my beloved son, died in 2000, I survived many days in auto-pilot mode, moving about our lovely home like a zombie. My child was not supposed to die before me. Nothing could ever have prepared me for the devastating loss of my son. Looking at my two lovely daughters, I knew that I had to go through this pain and be strong enough for them to be there as their mother. The two girls seemed to go through their life with school and their friends, but I can never tell for sure. Their grades improved significantly right after my son’s death, perhaps trying to make us happy.
Showing my pain as a normal process of grief and isolation is not the healthy way to grieve. Marital strain and stress in the family became more evident. I could not reach out to my husband in pain because there were days when I was my own ball of pain. I became borderline obese, with high blood pressure, clogged arteries and diabetes. With our family life in shambles, an idea dawned on me one day in November 2004. Was it Luijoe showing me the light? I felt the urge to bring our life in order. I started fixing my personal issues, exercised and lost significant weight. With a healthier body, the fog that clouded my mind cleared up. I reached out to my husband and family and became more open with my feelings. My children witnessed my transformation to a new, positive person and loving mother because of the actions I took to save myself.
My daughters learned of the language of resiliency from the actions I embarked on this new life. Resiliency begins with how parents personally handle adversity. Examples of adversity is not limited to just death. It can be about losing a job, being diagnosed with a serious illness, recovering from a failed relationship, maintaining balance between work and family life, and dealing with difficult people.
Let’s face it. As much as we want to protect our children from difficulty, we simply cannot. Resiliency is the number one skill they need to learn. What can we do to help prepare our children for the road ahead? In the book, “Raising Resilient Children,” Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein define resilience as “embracing the ability of a child to deal more effectively with stress and pressure, to cope with everyday challenges, to bounce back from disappointments, adversity, and trauma, to develop clear and realistic goals, to solve problems, to relate comfortably with others, and to treat oneself and others with respect..”
The fact that they saw their mother hurdle a crisis is a valuable lesson learned. Aside from being a positive role model to my children, I taught them other powerful thinking tools to equip them to face adversity:
1.Tell them there is always a choice
I often tell my children that there is a choice about what to do, how to respond and how to feel. It is alright to feel sadness and be honest about one’s feelings.
2. Teach gratitude
I allow my children to express their fears and disappointment but at the end of the day, I ask them “can you count your blessings?” Teach them to find the good in every situation. I tell them to appreciate what they have and focus on it rather than obsess on what they do not have.
3. Teach them to master a skill
I allowed my kids to develop their talent in music and writing. Mastering a skill generates positive feedback for their achievements and hard work. These motivate them to keep moving forward despite the challenges.
Blessed is the child who learns to respond instead of react, to choose positivity instead of misery, and to solve problems instead of remaining stuck when faced with life’s most important decisions. Parents play a significant role in the development of resilience in their children. The hand that rocks the cradle may not rule the world, but it certainly makes it a better place, at least for our children.