Building Back-to-School Resilience
By Anna Peterson Macsalka
As I’m sure you can relate, “back-to-school” is everywhere right now, but it definitely feels different this year. There is a dramatic sense of the unknown. What will school look like? How will kids respond? Is it safe? Will my child be able to handle it after what they went through last year? It all feels pretty overwhelming. I can’t help but worry that this generation of kids could become known as “Covid Kids” and the ugly ramifications that can come with labels like this. Will we give them excuses or write them off by saying, “it’s not their fault they’re ______, it was the pandemic” or “don’t hire a Covid Kid, we all know what they’re like”? But what if we could write a different story for this upcoming generation? What if they could come out more resilient and emotionally intelligent than any past generation? Is this possible?
I was listening to Anne Lamott on Tim Ferriss’ podcast recently and she compared difficult times to driving in the dark with your headlights on. You might not be able to see everything all at once, but you can see far enough in front of you so you can make the entire journey safely. I’m hopeful that given the right tools, we can send our kids back into the world with the brightest possible headlights. It is my belief that awareness, mindfulness, empathy, and gratitude can come together to form an inner coherence and adaptability for just about anyone.
The ability to overcome challenges. We can help them develop this by letting them stumble a bit and make safe mistakes. Then without giving an overelaborate lecture, simply speak to their accomplishment for coming out on the other side and point out the high-level lessons learned.
Best Zenimal meditation: RELAXATION & BREATH
This gives kid’s the knowledge and trust that they can do hard things, giving them ownership over their strengths. It isn’t built by giving generalized admiration or pointing out any and all frivolous achievements. Instead, it’s constructed through pointing out the qualities in their actions like kindness, creativity, honesty, and persistence and giving specific examples when these moments happen.
Best Zenimal meditation: INSPIRATION & STILLNESS
Unconditional relationships can evoke a sense of security. Communicating to them that it is safe to express all emotions and ideas in front of you is invaluable. Listen intently and don’t send them away when those feelings get unpleasant. Instead, encourage them to embrace the sensation and work through it by confronting it head on. Show them the importance of having a trusted support network by building one of your own.
Best Zenimal meditation: EMPATHY & RESTORATION
This illustrates what they bring to the world and how their actions and values impact others. You can help them by talking through how the choices they make have a ripple effect beyond their instant gratification or selfish motivations. How will this decision impact others? Help them express their values by voicing yours frequently.
Best Zenimal meditation: EMPATHY
Teaching kids the value and benefits of helping others through hard work and sacrifice can help give them purpose and feel like they are making a difference in the world. This can also allow them to feel confident reaching out when they are in need without any shame. Find ways to volunteer and give back in your community, and as always lead by example.
Best Zenimal meditation: EMPATHY & GRATITUDE
This is the ability to be aware of and deal with stress and adversity in a healthy way. Never shut your child down when they are having big feelings about seemingly small things. Show how adapting and staying flexible can offer outcomes that are often as good or better than the initial intention. Demonstrate your step by step process to pivot and adapt when you are facing difficulties, disappointments, or loss.*
Explain how sleep quality/quantity, mindfulness, exercise, good nutrition, and an open dialog can help give them power and strength to overcome immense things. Again, by prioritizing these for yourself, your child will eventually see their value.
Best Zenimal meditation: AWARENESS & SLEEP
*Grief is a heavy hitter in this world. If it’s in the picture, educate yourself and your child on how to process it in a healthy way and how you can help others with their grief. This is a massive growth opportunity.
If a kid can see that the choices they make have a cause and affect in their life, they can gain a sense of healthy inner control with this sense of freedom. If you are making all of their decisions for them, they can feel passive, irrelevant, and anxious. If they are struggling or scared to make a choice, ask “what’s the worst thing that could happen” then continuing asking with each response until you get to its root which is often humorous or implausible. Try to help them celebrate small successes and see how they impacted an outcome with their actions.
Best Zenimal meditation: BREATH & EMPATHY
I have incredibly high hopes and dreams for the future of all these kiddos. Let’s not pity and coddle them, but instead keep elevating them to become strong, adaptable, and kind human beings. I am honored and overjoyed to be a part of this continued effort and discussion. Sending love and light.