As we raise our children in the middle of a pandemic, it’s become clear we need to focus on building resilience in uncertain times – specifically building resilience in young people.
“Our instincts are to protect our kids from dealing with these kinds of struggles. The first thing we have to remember is the way kids become resilient is by practicing dealing with hard things with enough support.” – Dr. Tina Payne Bryson
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson is the author of the Bottom Line for Baby and co-author (with Dan Siegel) of two New York Times Best Sellers—The Whole-Brain Child and No-Drama Discipline. She has also co-authored The Yes Brain and The Power of Showing Up.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Connection, a multidisciplinary clinical practice in Southern California. Dr. Bryson keynotes conferences and conducts workshops for parents, educators, and clinicians all over the world, and she frequently consults with schools, businesses, and other organizations. She is also the mom of three boys.
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The Pandemic is an Opportunity to Practice Building Resilience in Young People
As you read at the top of this post, we want to protect our children from everything. When they hurt, we hurt. We don’t want them to have to go through hard stuff. You know the drill. But Dr. Payne Bryson points out – we have an opportunity to work with our children on building resilience during this time.
On the podcast – she says we can start by acknowledging that we cannot control what is happening.
We also need to make sure we – as parents – are regulated.
“If we want to be the safe harbor for our children when the world is stormy, we can’t be the storm ourselves.”
Create Predictability During Uncertain Times
Dr. Bryson shared with me some really practical ways to make the pandemic a little easier on our children.
First, realize that the brain doesn’t like things that are unpredictable.
She says it “makes us feel untethered, anxious, helpless, hopeless, depressed, nervous – just really unsettled. That we don’t really feel comfortable in our bodies or our skin.”
That’s why we can step in to create predictability for our kids.
She says this is as easy as doing the holiday traditions we typically do – like decorating the house for Halloween. Or adding predictable events throughout the week. For her family – they have overnight oatmeal ready in the crockpot every Thursday morning and have family movie nights on Sundays.
She says these weekly or seasonal rituals can start to create predictably.
There’s also an element of creating predictability about how we respond to them. For more information on this – and how making a repair when we do fly off the handle helps our children – listen to the full podcast here.
Help Your Children Practice Resilience
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite parenting books I have ever read is The Whole Brain Child.
“[The] whole book is about taking everyday opportunities – not to just survive the moment like when your kid is crying… Not just to survive them, but to use that as an opportunity to give your child an experience that can build their brain in an optimal way.”
She goes on to say, “Survive and thrive happen at the same time if we respond with enough support that allows them to handle difficult emotions.”
We talked about how we can step in mid-tantrum/meltdown without changing our boundaries, without distracting them, without throwing threats.
She says there is only one thing we need to remember.
“All I have to do is to remember my job in that moment is to be present, stay calm myself and walk with him through what’s ever happening.”
In this example during the podcast episode, Dr. Bryson talked about how her son was melting down when he had to go to bed, but his older brother got to stay up with his friend.
She didn’t do all of the things above – the distractions, the threatening, the giving in.
Instead, she pointed out what he was feeling by saying, “You’re really disappointed because you wanted to stay up with the big guys and it’s so hard to feel left out, is that right?”
She says he got more upset because she was right about what was going on.
She said to him, “I know it’s hard to feel that feeling and I’m right here with you while you’re feeling it.”
“This is resilience building.”
You guys. I love that building resilience in young people is just that – being there for our kids when they need us.
This is just us being with our children during a challenging moment – allowing them to feel their emotions.
Dr. Bryson says through this experience her son was able to have an experience with enough support that his brain got a rep of being in a disregulated state.
It was hard. It was uncomfortable. But he got through it.
He learns feelings come and go.
The Four S’s of Secure Attachment
What Dr. Bryson did in that meltdown scenario was the four ‘s’s.
I LOVE the four ‘s’s and I’ve been trying to practice this since first reading The Whole Brain Child.
The S’s are:
Safe – protecting your child from harm and making sure that you’re not causing the harm as the parent
Seen – seeing our children is about more than just looking at them. Truly seeing our kids involves their emotions and what’s behind their behaviors (for instance, Dr. Bryson noticed her son’s tantrum was happening because he was disappointed).
Soothed – being with our children during their hard times, showing up for them when they’re going through something difficult and therefore showing them they do not need to suffer alone
Secure Attachment – this step happens when our children are predictably safe, seen and sooted.
“They have had enough repeat experiences that their brain has wried to know – the actual architecture of the brain shows – if I have a need someone is going to show up for me,” Dr. Bryson said.
The coolest thing about this science is that parents do not need to have secure attachment themselves. Check out the whole podcast to learn about how you can create this for your children without having a parent who did it for you. You’ll also get some insight into what kind of parenting you may have grown up with.
Bottom Line for Baby
Dr. Bryson has written so many wonderful books – and has just released a new book called Bottom Line for Baby.
I wanted to give you a quick sneak peek at this new book.
When Dr. Bryson was a new mom – like many of us – we found contradicting science on just about every topic there could be – from co-sleeping, sleep training and breast feeding.
That’s why she wanted to create a resource for parents packed full of the research.
The book is set up alphabetically. Each topic has two main arguments of science, the bottom line and even Dr. Bryson’s opinion for some of the topics.
More on the Podcast
- Safety-based language vs. Fear-based language
- How to talk about the pandemic with your children to ultimately build resilience in young people
- Empowering words on how you can impact the impact of the pandemic on your children
- Teach kids to talk to their brains
- Why making a repair after a mistake is so important and the brain wiring that comes with it
- Types of disregulated parenting
Remember, you can listen to the Happiness in Progress podcast by asking Siri or Alexa to “turn on the Happiness in Progress podcast. You can also check it out on iTunes, the Mail Tribune, Stitcher, Youtube – or anywhere your heart desires that carries podcasts 😉
Book: The Power of Showing Up
Book: The Whole Brain Child
Book: Bottom Line for Baby
If you liked this episode, look for these parenting episodes: