Four Thoughts on Resilience

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Great thoughts which accentuate my article, The Importance of Raising Resilient Children. 

 

 

 

Resilience“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It is the one that stands in the open where it’s compelled to struggle for its existence. Against the winds, rains and the scorching sun.”

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What thoughts can you share on the importance of being resilient?

 

The Importance of Raising Resilient Children

children-dancing-in-rainI suppose it’s natural for a parent to want to protect their child from disappointment and heartache. I worried for more than six weeks about when the right time would be for our kids to see their dad who was comatose and had several other life threatening health problems from the car accident. They asked me every day when they would be able to see him. At ages seven and eight years old they couldn’t understand how severely hurt he was until they saw him. I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I know that my timing was perfect. What I do know is that I had their best interest in mind when I made the decision. Christopher and Katie were stunned when they walked into the room where their dad lay unconscious. At the first sight of him they stopped in their tracks and with unbelieving, widened eyes looked at him. The surgical masks they were required to wear in his room hid their opened mouths. Afraid to get any closer, they stayed just inside the doorway, speechless. What I learned from this experience is that our children are stronger and more resilient than I realized. They quickly recovered from the shock of their dad’s condition and the next time they saw him they weren’t afraid.

Since life is full of various illnesses, threats, tragedy, death, family and other relationship problems, it’s impossible to save them from all the adversities of life. Therefore, it’s essential to help our children rise above hurting because disastrous things will happen in their lives. Just as it is with adults, it’s common for children to experience setbacks, unwanted challenges, failures and even difficulties at home and school. If we protect our children from every fall, which is tempting to do, how will they learn to bounce back? As adults, it’s rewarding to see resilient children who are capable of effectively handling disappointment, failure and obstacles. Teaching children how to recover from hard times is important.

Here are four great tips I found on http://www.raisingresilientkids.com/.

Tip # 1 Give Our Children Undivided Attention

Quality time with children is more than just being with them physically. We must give them undivided attention by listening with our heart. When we give our full attention, they will feel important. They will be confident they can trust and depend on us in handling their situation.

Tip #2 Put Yourself in Your Child’s Shoes

When you face difficult situations and setbacks, you may talk to your spouse or a friend about it. All too often their response will be, “It’s okay, you can try again next time.” There’s nothing wrong with this reaction, however, it’s not what you wanted to hear. You want empathy and assurance that they will be with you until you are able to recover from your disappointment. Your children also need these things when they are down. They don’t want lectures or advice. Letting them know you understand them and you’re willing to support them will teach them resilience.

Tip # 3 Don’t Judge or Criticize Your Children

Accepting your children for who they are is one of the best ways to make them resilient. Well accepted and appreciated children become more confident and strong in facing any obstacles in life. If they aren’t criticized for the way they are, they become more appreciative of themselves and do better in life.

Tip # 4 Determine Your Child’s Strengths and Help Them Develop Those Strength

Each child has his own strengths and weaknesses. For example, if your child is good at music or a craft, help develop it and don’t try to make him excel in math or sports. Helping your child know his strengths will promote resilience in letting him know that he excels in somethings.

I would love to hear about a time when your child has been resilient or a tip on how you’ve taught this important trait.

 

Our Children’s First Visit

While holding Mark’s hand and telling him about Western Rehab I felt him lightly squeeze my hand. Shocked and elated at his first movement in over six weeks I asked, “Did you just squeeze my hand?” I felt him squeeze it again. I grabbed the first nurse I saw and told her the good news. Skeptically she came into the room, took Mark’s hand and asked him to squeeze it. He did not. She looked at me and said sympathetically, it must have been a reflex without purpose. I knew differently.

When Dr. Hinchey did his morning rounds he said, “There is no change in Mark’s prognosis. He is still one point from being brain-dead and that point comes from his eye movement.”

“How can you say that? He just squeezed my hand.”

“If he can’t do it on command, it’s a reflex without purpose.”

Thinking, I’ve got to get Mark out of this negative environment, I asked, “Now that Mark’s red and white cell counts are getting in the normal range, how soon can we move him to Western Rehab?”

“I don’t know. We need to finish the treatment for his liver infection,” Dr. Hinchey said.

“Our children are out of school now and it’s hard to be this far from home. They ask me daily when they get to see their dad. When will that be possible?”

“They can come, but they will have to wear a mask over their mouth and wash up thoroughly before they come in the room because any infection would be deadly for Mark.”

It had been a long six weeks for me, but for a young seven and eight-year old child, it seemed like forever since they’d seen their dad.  They were anxious, but I was worried how their young minds would interpret the sight of their dad with all the tubes and equipment which kept him alive. I talked to the social worker about how I could prepare our children for their first visit.

“I can take them on a tour of the hospital first,” he said. “This will get them familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of the hospital. I can also show and tell them about the equipment which is helping their dad right now.”

That night I told the kids they would get a tour of the hospital and be able to see their dad tomorrow. They were excited, even though they knew he was hurt and he wouldn’t be able to talk to them. I talked to them about his special bed and equipment, but nothing could really prepare them for what they’d never seen before.

I’m sure the tour of the hospital helped, but Christopher and Katie were stunned when they walked into the room where their dad lay unconscious. At the first sight of him they stopped in their tracks and with unbelieving, widened eyes looked at him. The surgical masks they were required to wear in his room hid their opened mouths. Afraid to get any closer, they stayed just inside the doorway, speechless.

Katie recalls in her article written on June 17, 2014, Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy, “My excitement shattered when I walked into his room. The man I once saw smash his finger with a hammer without shedding a tear lay helplessly unconscious. Tubes connected his lifeless body to machines. He was dependent on technology and the care of others. It was my first time seeing him vulnerable. I was scared. I recognized his face, but how could he be my dad? My dad was strong enough to lift me onto his shoulders so I could see parades over large crowds. My dad did sit-ups every night with his toes tucked under the couch as I sat on it and counted his sit-ups aloud. My dad killed spiders for me and read bedtime stories to me. I didn’t want to go near the lifeless body in the hospital bed.”

June 1991, first picture after the accident with the kids.

July 1991, first picture with the kids after the accident.

With all my heart and soul I wanted to make this better for Christopher and Katie. I knew they needed to see him to understand how hurt he really was and why he wasn’t home, but I disparately wanted to protect them from the worry.They were so innocent and I knew they’d be disappointed.

It was a Friday and my turn to stay overnight at the hospital, so my mom took the kids to spend the night at her house. I was constantly torn between Mark and the kids. I wanted and needed to be with each one, but it was impossible. No matter who I was with I was worrying about the other. I could hardly bear that we weren’t together as a family and had sixty miles separating us.

The small Ronald McDonald house which was close by the hospital parking lot became my home away from home. It had two bedrooms, one bath and living room complete with a couch, and reclining chair. The kitchen had a fridge, stove, a few dishes and utensils. In the beginning, I was in the basement of this home, but there was a plumbing issue so I had to move upstairs with the Call family who were from Idaho. Donna and Wayne Call were a little older than my parent’s and they had six kids with their youngest being close to my age. Wayne had a heart attack and after surgery he didn’t regain consciousness and was transferred to McKay Dee Hospital. Donna and I became close, despite our age difference. She was always at the hospital and her kids took turns bringing her needed items and staying overnight with her. I was given one bedroom and the Call family had the other. Each bedroom had a double bed plus a bunk bed in it, but with my broken collarbone I was more comfortable sleeping in the reclining chair. Sometimes my parents stayed there with me and on weeknights my brothers were there. The Call’s also had several family members coming and going and once in awhile it was such a full house they used sleeping bags on the floor in the living room. We got to know each other well over a seven week period of time. The Call’s made me feel part of their family. They would come to Mark’s room late at night to get me and to make sure I made it to the McDonald home safely. They were kind and thoughtful. I appreciated their friendship and we had a lot in common with our loved ones in critical condition. I was grateful for the comfort of this home which became a safe haven from the upset of the hospital. Amongst the turmoil and worrying about Mark as well as missing my own home and family I received the blessing of new friends and resilient children who quickly overcame their fear of seeing their dad.

Five Steps to Overcome Fear

FearAfter the car accident I swore I’d never drive again and with a broken collarbone and totaled car I wasn’t capable of driving for six weeks. Once I was given the go ahead from the doctor I had to face my fear of driving. My parents helped me understand it was a necessity. It took months for me to feel safe behind the wheel again. At every stop sign or signal I had a fear that an unseen vehicle would hit me. How do you overcome your fears? I did a lot of praying, but here are some suggestions I thought of while remembering another fearful time for me.

  1. Analyze what you fear and why.
  2. Want it more than you’re afraid of it.
  3. Build confidence with positive thinking.
  4. Make an action plan to overcome the fear.
  5. Ask for help if needed.

2001, Christopher jumping for joy in Alaska or possibly trying to kill all the mosquitoes. They were thick in this part of Alaska.

In 2001 I took the kids to Alaska for their high school graduation gift. In my mind it would be our last chance of a family vacation with just the four of us. It was going to be the most expensive trip we’d ever taken and I wanted it to be perfect. A motor home was the most economical way for us to see Alaska. I was afraid of driving a big rig even though I was planning on renting the smallest one available. We had done lots of camping in a trailer or tent, but never a motor home. I didn’t know about the hookups and other mechanical parts of this type of R.V. and wondered how we could get Mark in and out of it. I was also fearful of being in an unfamiliar state while driving a motor home for the first time in my life.

I wanted to take our family on this trip more than I was afraid of it and I spent Christopher’s senior year saving, planning and preparing for this trip.

I built my confidence by thinking positively about it. When a doubt or fear came to mind, I pushed it aside by thinking, sure you can do this. I researched what I was worrying about and worked out my fears in my mind.

I put my positive thinking into action by studying maps and getting a clear idea of where I wanted to go and how I would get there. I studied and studied the maps, which helped me feel comfortable with an area I’d never been in before, building my confidence.

I asked a neighbor and good friend who had a motor home for help. I told Mckay of my trip plans and asked if he would teach me about the care and hookups of a motor home. He even let the kids and I work out how we could get Mark in the motor home. We literally had to carry him up the stairs. Thank heavens for a strong eighteen-year-old son! Mckay also let me drive it around town a bit so I could get the feel of it. This valuable learning experience built my confidence. I appreciated Mckay’s time and effort in helping me feel comfortable with the motor home. He spent a Saturday afternoon with us and it made the trip of a lifetime possible. All went well as I followed those five steps to overcome my fear.

I’d love to hear how you’ve conquered your fears. Please share in the comment box below.

 

Acceptance of an Unwanted Necessity

It was worrisome that Mark had been in a coma for so long, yet I was grateful he appeared to be resting peacefully through the emergency health crisis. His world seemed serene compared to mine. If only I could feel the same tranquility he looked like he had. Maybe being in a coma was a blessing in disguise, yet I wanted him to wake up more than anything and did all I could to make it happen.

Six weeks had passed and time to have an x-ray on my collarbone. It had healed well, but I had a floating piece of bone from the break, which felt like a stone in my shoulder area. It was bothersome at times, especially when it was touched, but the doctor reassured me it would disintegrate within five years. He said I was free to go without my sling and brace. As much as I looked forward to that day and suffered wearing the brace because it caused sores on my armpits, I felt like I would fall apart without it. Strangely, it took a few days to feel comfortable with no brace and sling for my arm.

With freedom to move my arm I was capable to drive a vehicle again. However, I needed a car to do that and my confidence in driving was ruined in the car crash. Although I hated to depend on others to get me to the hospital, I had no desire and even stated many times that I would never drive again. This must have worried my folks. They had always taught me, when you get bucked off of a horse, you get right back on and ride again, but this was different, or was it? I wasn’t only bucked off—I felt trampled on.

caprice79Mom and Dad’s car was a gray 1979 Caprice Chevrolet. They bought it new and took great care of it and had recently put a new engine in the twelve year old car. I didn’t know they were thinking of getting a new car so I was surprise one day when Dad showed up at the hospital excited for us to see the new car he’d just bought. It was at the end of the day and time to go home so we said our good-byes to Mark and walked outside to see the new car.

“We want you to have the Caprice”, Dad said as we walked outside.

“Thanks, but I really don’t want to drive.”

“I understand, but you have to in order to get where you and the kids will need to go,” Mom said.

As we approached the cars I could see they had been busy spiffing up the old car and getting all their personal belongings transferred into their new one. It was freshly washed and vacuumed.

“I think you should drive home from the hospital today,” Mom said as she handed me the keys.

“Okay,” I said apprehensively, wanting to please them and show my appreciation for their thoughtfulness. Dad took the passenger side of their gray car, while Mom said she’d follow us in the new one. I took the seat behind the wheel for the first time since the accident. Terror ran through my blood at every stop sign and signal, but I tried to stay calm, cool and collected just as my dad was. By the time we reached the freeway, the fear lessened some. I felt awkward—like the first day of drivers ed. It was a long sixty minute drive, but being behind the wheel made it seem like forever. I didn’t say a single word, just concentrated on driving and staying composed. Dad probably gave some instructions and encouraging words, but all I remember is driving in silence. Not even the radio was played to distract me.

Having a car for me to drive made it possible for Mom to be with the kids during the day since they were now out of school. The next morning before pulling out of the driveway I prayed for my safety. It was my first trip to McKay-Dee Hospital alone. By the time I reached the freeway, I was overcome with grief, fear and loneliness. Can I really do this? I had to pull off the freeway and park because I was afraid my tears would cause an accident. Ashamed of myself, I thought, what must the people be thinking as they drive past this car with a lady sobbing in it? You must pull yourself together and get yourself to the hospital now. Mark needs you.

I dried my tears, took a deep breath and accepted that driving was an unwanted necessity. Before getting back on the freeway I asked God to help me overcome my fear of driving and when I arrived at the hospital safely, I thanked Him for His comfort.

The only thing I was sure about in our uncertain circumstances was that I needed to get Mark closer to our home in Sandy, Utah. The hour drive to and from the hospital daily was hard on me and my family. My days turned into looking for the best hospital closer to home. The social worker at McKay-Dee Hospital put me in contact with several representatives from different hospitals which specialized in rehabilitating people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). After gaining information on what each facility offered, I chose three of the best options.  Mom and I went to the facilities to personally meet the staff, see the rooms and the equipment. I chose Western Rehab not only because it was located in Sandy, Utah, but it was clean and had a great reputation for rehabilitation which specialized in TBI and spinal cord injuries. I was excited to get Mark moved and hoping that a rehab center would be more encouraging about Mark’s recovery.