Welcome to Mummylogues. A series dedicated to candid conversations, relatable tips and resources for navigating through pregnancy and motherhood. This edition features Mrs Neerja Birla, a prolific thought leader, change maker and strong advocate in the fields of mental health and education. Here she lends a thoughtful perspective on helping our children to develop resilience in a world where cataclysmic changes, adversity and unpredictability are the order of the day.
No other year in recent memory has made quite the case for the need for resilience than 2020. The ability to cope with change, to adapt to adversity, and to thrive in the face of the unpredictable – resilience – has become the most valuable of life skills. We’re all born with a certain amount of resilience. We’ve often seen that young children bounce back from difficult situations much faster than adults do. However, somewhere on the path to growing up, we often run out of that resilience in our spirit, finding it harder and harder to cope with life’s problems.
Bouncing forward in a changing world
The generation of young people today live in a world where cataclysmic changes happen in the blink of an eye – new technologies emerge that changes overnight the way they communicate, live and explore the world – economic, socio-political big bangs that affect their future careers, access to resources and even the quality of their existence on this planet. This year alone, we’ve seen life-changing events thanks to climate change, political unrest, economic fluctuations and the coronavirus pandemic. How do we prepare them for a world that we can’t even predict?
As a parent or an educator, the tough answer is – we can’t. We can only give them the gift of resilience so that they can meet these challenges on their own terms. Children who learn to develop resilience grow up into well-balanced adults who can adapt and thrive in the face of any adversity. They experience less stress, can cope better and can avoid having difficult life situations affect their mental health negatively.
We all know that resilience is the ability to bounce back from a setback. In 2020, I think we need to look beyond just bouncing back, and to also look at the ability to bounce forward. It’s not about getting back to normal after facing a difficult situation but to be able to learn from that process and to become stronger and better at tackling the next problem that comes along.
Learning to teach resilience
We have a huge role to play in how our children learn to deal with setbacks and adversity. How do we react when we see them fail even after working so hard at something? What do we say, what do we teach them about the nature of chasing dreams and mending broken hearts? Helping children develop resilience is not a one-time activity. It’s a lifelong process of helping them understand what happens, why it happens and how they can do better the next time it happens. Ultimately, having a resilient mindset would allow them to anticipate possible problems, to organise their solutions and reactions to those problems and to overcome, learn from and adapt to similar problems in the future.
To be able to really teach our kids to be resilience, I think we first need to change some of our own beliefs. We need to remember that each goal is a preferred possibility but not the end-all and be-all of things. No matter how well we plan and prepare, life tends to throw a ‘no’, or ‘not now’ our way sometimes. While we form our Plan A and work diligently towards it, I think that we need to be accepting of the reality that Plan A might not always work out, and that it’s perfectly okay to switch to a Plan B – as long as we keep moving forward.
Building a culture of resilience
Another approach that we could look at adjusting is the concept of acquainting children early on with life’s ‘no’s. We mustn’t shy away from saying no when the occasion calls for it because it helps them understand that they can’t always get what they want, and how to take tackle positively.
I think the most important element of resilience that I have learnt this year is that it requires a cultural impetus to give it its full power. When faced with adversity, big or small, it makes it easier to find resilience when one is able to be able to draw on a support system of family, friends, colleagues, teachers etc. On that note, as we work towards a more resilient lifestyle, let me share my personal mantra for resilience:
“We’re not defined by our successes or our failures. We are defined by the grit and grace with which we deal with them. We are not our goals. We are the product of our journey towards those goals. We are defined by how we pick ourselves up and keep moving, ever onward.”
About Neerja Birla
A Thought Leader and Change maker, Mrs. Neerja Birla is dedicated to empowering various factions of society through her numerous initiatives and collaborative endeavours.
She is the Founder and Chairperson of Mpower, a movement that aims to affect a positive change in the attitudes towards mental health. A strong advocate in the field of education, she chairs The Aditya Birla World Academy (a pioneering educational institute) as well as The Aditya Birla Integrated School, a state-of-the-art holistic learning environment for children with learning and intellectual disabilities. As part of her commitment to building a holistic education base, she has also founded Aditya Birla Education Academy, with the objective of nurturing the aspirations of the brilliant and dedicated educators who nurture young minds.
The proud mother of three successful and loving children, Ananyashree, Aryaman Vikram and Advaitesha – her role as a mother is the closest to her heart. An outdoor sports enthusiast, she is an avid reader who finds solace in listening to music and wishes to call herself a traveller!
Follow her on Twitter @NeerjaBirla