I hate the phrase “Kids are resilient.”
I’ve honestly used this phrase myself for years. But the longer I’ve been a military wife, the more that phrase bothers me.
It’s like a burr. It clings to the aura of what it means to be a military kid: Strong, buoyant, able to overcome any hardship and come out even better on the other side.
But like a burr, it is painful. I want to pick it apart, and throw it away because here is the real truth, the flipside to “kids are resilient”:
Kids don’t always recover from the wounds life hurls at them.
And we don’t like to think about this, not as parents, not as teachers.
We like to think that whatever life throws at our kids (in our homes or classrooms)—moving constantly, being separated from parents, losing friends, changing schools, crushed dreams, death of loved ones, divorce, foster placement, broken hearts, disease—will make them stronger.
And while our kids may often learn valuable lessons from going through hardship, from the wise adults in their lives, or from their own inner voice, the truth is that hardship and struggle and pain just as often leave kids with anxiety, depression, emotionally stunted growth, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
I think of the untangling I’ve done—and still have to do—of my struggles with anxiety, depression, relational and emotional growth, and painfully unlearning poor coping mechanisms.
I think of my own children, how at times they’ve responded to difficulty, not with resilience, but with suicidal language.
And we were on top of things as parents, with on-going conversations, support from counselors, and therapy sessions. I’m thankful that right now our kids are in a healthy mental place.
I’ve learned that I can’t take my kids’ mental health for granted.
Because the truth is, not every kid bounces back.
Sometimes the lesson learned is to hide your feelings, your thoughts, your emotions, your very self, to bury it deep down, so no one can see.
Sometimes the struggle and the pain are so great, that a precious child does not see a way out, and makes an irreversible decision.
Kids are resilient, they say.
But we have to stop slapping this pancea on our kids’ pain, hoping that one day they figure out how to make lemonade out of the lemons life hurled at them.
If we want to raise truly resilient kids who are both emotionally and mentally healthy, we have to be proactive; we have to show them the way.
Because the real truth is this: Kids need support.