Helping Our Children Become Resilient

by | Dec 7, 2011 | Our Stories

By Matt King, Head of School

Being a parent seems to get more complicated and challenging each year.  As a new grandfather observing the amount and complexity of equipment that parents now must have for babies, I was struck that the amount of new “stuff” seems to have doubled in a generation. And that’s the easy part, for the truly challenging work is guiding children through childhood and then adolescence.

A recent very powerful and provocative article in the Atlantic Monthly – “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy” by Lori Gottlieb – touched on many issues, tensions, and dilemmas that are a struggle for all parents. The article synthesized a great deal of material that is relevant to people who spend their lives working with children. I sent this article to all Rashi staff as well as to Rashi parents, whom I also believed would benefit from reading it.

I have long felt that the most important gift we can give our children is to help them become resilient. Inevitably, life will throw you curve balls. Both adults and children will face disappointment and failure in their lives and we need to know how to deal with those situations. An increasing number of parents seem to think that their job is to shield children from frustration and failure, but doing so may have the opposite effect and undermine their confidence and ability to handle disappointments.

Since one of our goals this year at Rashi is to provide more learning and social opportunities for parents, I convened two discussion groups with parents to review the issues raised in this article. The overwhelming response was that this is exactly the type of thinking we should be doing in this area. But there was also the realization that it is one thing to read and agree with an article, and quite another to “act in the moment” or to stand back when your child is in emotional pain. As parents, we are unhappy when our kids are unhappy. But we have to understand that if we “rescue” our children they won’t develop coping strategies on their own.

This year we are committed to increasing the resilience of our Rashi students and making our faculty more aware of issues related to resiliency. We will also be providing additional opportunities for parents to talk to each other, to facilitate conversations and to provide resources.

In this as in so many areas, being in a Jewish independent school makes it easier to raise and discuss these issues because we all share the same values. The parents who choose to send their children to Rashi embrace those values. When we have a discussion on a topic such as resiliency – especially when we gather in our beautiful Beit Midrash – the conversation is automatically enriched. Putting the discussion in the context of Jewish values definitely makes a difference.