Life is sometimes unfair. Life doesn’t always go your way. You don’t always get what you want.
Those are the truths that we have to learn from a very young age. They are also those of which we are reminded more often than I deem necessary. But there is no doubt that they cannot be avoided.
I see Katie’s frustration with the world on almost a daily basis as she struggles with not getting her way. She has to get out of bed. Wear clothes. Eat nutritious food. Not have sweets on a daily basis. It’s tough from her perspective.
But it’s times like these that I’m reminded of the importance of developing resilience. Kids need to be equipped with the skills to be able to cope when things don’t go to plan. They do need to get up when they’ve fallen and carry on.
Whilst I’m not about to advocate not comforting children when they’re upset. I do think it’s important for children to struggle and to be able to overcome problems themselves. I would argue that they are far more likely to gain a sense of achievement by not being helped every step of the way.
I’m also not about to propose that children should be out trying to dodge traffic. I do think however, we’re more likely to do harm by continually bubble wrapping them. Or shouting out warnings to be careful.
In my mind, children are going to be in situations where they need resilience. They may find school work difficult. Perhaps they may not get the part in the school play. They may not get invited to the birthday party. As parents, we can’t always magic those problems away and our kids need to be able to cope.
My husband and I, realised his more than ever when Ben started school (many years ago) and his teachers were frustrated at how dependent he was. If he fell down in the playground we would still be hearing about it a week later. He couldn’t start tasks or actually get on with things by himself. By trying to be there for him and protect him from struggles, we had in fact created them.
It’s for that reason I’m hugely grateful that we discovered the National Trust scheme for children:
Whilst on holiday in Devon we discovered this whole list of things that Ben had not done by the age of 7. He had never climbed a tree, played out in the rain, made mud pies… the list went on.
I guess I had thought that all kids did these things. But then I realised we didn’t have a garden with a mud patch. There were no trees to climb. Ben had never been left in such an area to explore himself and it hadn’t been on our agenda. Life wasn’t quite the same as it once had been – and it had an impact.
At first we thought it just looked like a fun list of things that kids typically would have done. But as we began to work through the list with Ben it became apparent how valuable it truly was.
I can vividly remember standing at the foot of a tree and telling Ben he could climb it. He did not have a clue. Eventually I boosted him up the thing and told him he would have to climb down it if he wanted to go home that day. His sense of joy and achievement when he did finally make it down was immense.
That summer saw him ticking task after task off the list. He went horse riding, tipped mud over his head in the garden, and swam in the sea. He set off geocaching, and flew a kite. All in all, he discovered a great love for the outdoors that remains to this day.
More important than all of that, he discovered he could do all of these things himself with minimal help. Some of the things were difficult. Some of the were terrifying for him. But all of them were achievable. On his return to school that Autumn his teacher noted the change. He was far more ready to take risks, to put his hand up and dare to try on his own merits.
Ben does not always succeed. He still finds school very difficult. But when he falls off his skateboard, he gets up. He keeps trying at school and finds positives. I can say with total confidence that facilitating him to complete the challenge is the best thing we have done for his education. More over, his happiness and self-esteem increased tenfold – which is more important than anything.
Although I have learned my lesson to an extent about not being overly protective, I still see it as a valuable scheme. I have workbooks for both Katie and Thomas to complete in the future. The activities remind us to go on adventures. To discover to places and to try different things. I cannot wait to watch them discover the outdoors as they grow.
I recently flew a kite with Katie in our front garden; and watched as she worked out how the wind blew. She pointed out the colours of the kite against the sky and problem solved as it got stuck in a tree! Although she is a bit too little to do this entirely independently, I’m confident that she will be equipped to do this herself in years to come.
Whether your child lacks resilience or has bags of it, I could not recommend this scheme more highly. National Trust membership is not required and activities are entirely free. I hope that you can make memories as valuable as the ones we have.