A Cross-country meet? In NOVEMBER?
Even though students had been training and practicing in gym for this late season cross country meet, many were worried; about winning or losing, about being too cold, too tired to cross the finish line. For many, this was epic, a race of Mount Everest proportions in their minds!
There are many reasons as adults that we would be tempted to help children avoid or escape such an extreme and difficult challenge. Too cold. Too long. Too boring. Not their ‘thing’. We have a strong instinct to protect and shield those we love, especially when they are young. As children get older, however, things become more and more murky; we know children don’t gain confidence without experiencing challenges, but surely we could save them from THIS particular challenge….? Which challenges are important? Which ones could we dodge? The fact is, adversity builds strength. Any adversity. Emptying the dishwasher. Writing a math contest. Death in the family. Having conflicts with friends. Running a Cross-country race in November! We want our children to face hard times and know that they can dig deep and accomplish really difficult things. We want them to face new situations with a ‘give-it-a-go’ attitude, and be able to cope with challenge and failure. After all, life is FULL of new and difficult things. As well, who can deny the benefits of the camaraderie and connection we feel with others who have been through hard times too?
The first ever KMS Cross-country meet was full of challenges. As well as training for weeks beforehand, students were directly involved in making the day a success. Middle school students baked cookies all week and made giant pots full of home-made chicken soup, hot chocolate, lemonade to sell during the day. The morning of the race, some schools sent in cancellations, worried about temperatures and weather. Our multi-school race was shrinking…could we pull it together?
Parents, teachers, volunteers and students all felt the cold temperatures that morning. It sure felt like winter, while watching other grades race. Amazingly, in the end, the students said that when they were running, they didn’t feel cold at all! Students made a real effort to be good hosts to those who came from other schools — playing games at lunch, describing the course, cheering each other on. Altogether, the day was a resounding success. Everyone worked together to make a memorable, epic challenge happen, and the benefits from coming through a day like that outweigh all of the difficulties involved. Truly, nothing worth having comes easily. This event built resilience.
Some thoughts about what we can do to promote resilience in our children, from a wonderful website article by the Montessori School of Wellington, in Guelph: https://montessori-school.ca/blog/building-resilience/
Model self-control – use techniques such as taking deep breaths, counting to ten, removing yourself from the stressful situation. Demonstrate to your child that you don’t expect instant gratification. Encourage your child to keep trying even when it’s hard, difficult or frustrating.
Help your child to understand that there are situations in life that are challenging and have no magic solutions. Show them that sometimes you need to work at finding solutions and deal with adversities.
Help your child to identify what she can and cannot control. How we think about situations that happen to us really determines how we feel and what we do. Be a flexible thinker and gently challenge your child’s assumptions. Offer ways to see a situation from another perspective and new ways of handling difficulties they might face. If you find that your child has a persistently negative attitude, for example, “I never get to go first,” or “ Now everything is ruined,” challenge their thoughts and remind them of the times when they were first and remind that, if one thing goes wrong, not everything is ruined.
We ourselves are here because of the determined efforts and resilience of generations of others. For them, we are grateful.