The Paradox of Resilience

An image of two young girls in karate uniforms. One is doing a kick in the air and smiling.By Nasreen Gulamhusein

The other night I was driving and listening to this brilliant podcast by Dr. Becky – a well-known Child Psychologist who has a book & a podcast called Good Inside. The focus of this particular episode was about children & praise. At the end of the podcast she said something which made me pause the podcast, pull my car over, and rewind. I wanted to hear it again with my full attention because it was so important to fully take in.

She named something we all struggle with as parents – helping our children build resilience. We struggle because we all want the very best for our children and when they experience something hard or painful, we feel pain too. They are so precious to us and we work hard to protect them, and protecting them often means we work hard to help them feel better (as quickly as possible) when they feel emotional discomfort.

We all have certain knee-jerk reactions to managing our own pain: blame someone, fix it, ignore it, “look at the bright side” or distract from the hurt, just to name a few. These knee-jerk reactions to our own pain become the same reactions we have to our children’s pain. However, these reactions (which feel helpful in the moment) protect our children from the wrong thing. These reactions prevent our children from being in touch with the discomfort of their struggle and instead rushes them over it, around it or right past it.

If our children never get the chance to move through their pain, how will they build this muscle?

Being with the pain is where the gold is. And I know, this sounds like it makes no sense. It is what Dr. Becky would call the paradox of building resilience. Um, why would I WANT my child to feel their pain? This doesn’t sound like a good idea! And you would be partly right. You don’t want them to get STUCK in the pain. But you do want to encourage them to feel the discomfort of the hard moment, learn that they can survive it, and then move through it. Resilience is built by moving through.

So how do I help my child move through without getting stuck in their pain? And how do I handle the parts of me that start to react in those knee-jerk ways when I am helping my child?

This is where your personal work as a parent comes in. When you can encounter your own pain/discomfort with compassion, patience and a willingness to be with yourself, then you will become more able to offer this to your child. What we grow in ourselves, we find easier to extend to others. This work is most powerful when it is not done alone, and personal counselling sessions are a great way to give yourself the space you need to make this growth.

And while you are doing that valuable and important personal work, Dr. Becky has some great tangible and simple resilience-building steps you can take when your child shares a struggle with you:

1. Thank your child for sharing. They trust you enough to bring the hard things to you so start by honouring that.

Use words like:

“Thank you so much for telling me”

“I really appreciate you sharing this hard thing with me.”

2. Help them to remember that struggle is normal and it’s a part of being human.

Use words like:

“Ooof, it’s so hard when X happens isn’t it?” (and X can be anything – not being able to colour in the lines, being picked last during gym-class sports, not making the debate team …etc.)

“It’s okay to feel X. Anyone in your shoes would probably feel that too.”

“I remember feeling X when I was your age” (X can be anything from sad or scared to overwhelmed or angry)

3. Be willing to be with them in their hard place.

When you aren’t scared of their big or hard feelings, they will become less scared of them too. It is here, with you, that your children get to remember that they are worthy of love no matter what is happening to them. And this experience of worthiness is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives – and there is no greater gift than that.

If you are interested in more Dr. Becky, you can find her here.

Feeling Into Phase Two

By Nasreen Gulamhusein

About 3 months ago our world slowly came to a halt. Statistics filled the news, local shops closed, institutions that we always thought would be accessible shut down. We put on masks and gloves, and stocked up our pantries and grabbed extra toilet paper. As a collective we felt BIG feelings – terror, relief, uncertainty, hope, self-protection, gratitude and more. We rode the waves of this unchartered and unmapped territory together.

In many ways we were tested like we never have been before. We felt the anxiety of uncertainty and got angry, scared, quiet, sad, and took these feelings out on each other. And in those rare moments where we could breathe maybe we remembered to be kind to ourselves, and those around us. Forgiveness and gentleness became our friends.

We also showed up for each other like never before. We redefined what it means to parent, to teach and to love. We surprised ourselves with how much we could get through. We realized we are human, and in the middle of global upheaval, we are doing the best we can. And then we got up and did it all over again the next day.

It took a few weeks and then a new way of life settled it. It looked nothing like our old life but the dust was settling and we found a weird new groove. There was certainty in the uncertainty.

And now, Phase 2 is unfolding. Schools, coffee shops, hairdressers (and more) are slowly reopening their doors and we find ourselves in a state of change, once again. Even when change is “good”, it can be hard to make the adjustment. A shift of any kind takes work. Good doesn’t necessarily mean easy.

Phase Two might bring with it another phase of feelings for you. Another wave to ride. Another set of uncertainties or questions like – should I send my kids to school? Do I still need to wear a mask? Who can I visit with? How long will the distancing last?

You might find yourself energized one day, and exhausted to the bone the next – this is natural to feel.

You might find yourself excited about things being open, and feeling the heartbreak that social distancing is here to stay for a while – this is natural to feel.

You might be in grief from lost experiences, jobs or loved ones that are no longer part of your world and nothing feels okay – this is natural to feel.

You might be happy, grateful and going with the flow – this is natural to feel.

Your whole, beautiful, messy human experience is okay and allowed. There are no wrong feelings or experiences when we are all navigating something we have never done before. Give yourselves the permission to allow all that is there, to be there.

Permission looks like this: Name your emotion. Naming it can provide you with a sense of solidity because your brain can wrap itself around something your body and heart are experiencing. It helps your brain and body connect, which helps your nervous system to calm down.

Remind yourself that this is how you are SUPPOSED to be feeling (no matter what it is, your feelings are valid!). There is no right or wrong here. Getting angry at or berating yourself can often trigger shame and a desire to hide. Big feelings need connection to soften and release.

Connect – with yourself by taking deep and steady breaths. Getting out into nature. Journaling. Or connect with a trusted friend. The one you know has got your back when things get hard.

And perhaps you read this and tomorrow, when life takes over, you forget. Come back to this post. And come back again. Because you deserve to know that all that is happening inside you is okay. It won’t last forever because change is the foundation of the human experience.

Phase Two, here we come. Let’s keep holding hands and remembering: we are literally all in this together.

Caring for YOU When Mom Guilt Strikes

By Shahaa Kakar & Nasreen Gulamhusein

We were delighted to have recently had the opportunity to speak on the ParentTalk Podcast about a topic that is familiar to many mothers – Mom Guilt!

Mom guilt is universal — we all run into it as we raise our children. We chatted with ParentTalk hosts, Geneviève Kyle and Heather Fox, about our personal journeys with mom guilt as well as some strategies for how to support yourself when find yourself in the middle of it. 

We covered:

  • Why we experience mom guilt.
  • What exactly is guilt?
  • How do we get rid of mom guilt?
  • Some things that moms can do when the mom guilt strikes.

Have a listen here: https://parenttalk.ca/e124-mom-guilt-with-nasreen-gulamhusein-shahaa-kakar-parent-talk/