Rany Moran’s guide to nurturing mental resilience in parents and children

It's my belief that being a parent is the most complex and crucial activity on the planet. We are a child’s first and most important educators, and beyond the academic lessons we teach them, they can also take on our personal mannerisms, mentalities and mechanisms simply by observing us at home. This can have a positive impact on our children, but there is also a possibility of having a negative impact if not dealt with appropriately.

This is why mental resilience is something we should instil in ourselves and thus, our children from a young age, to arm everyone with the ability to mentally or emotionally cope, adapt and thrive in the face of difficulty, trauma, chaos, and extreme change, or any situation involving significant stress and decision making.

While parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, here’s a checklist that could help you nurture mental resilience in yourself and your children, and instil all the necessary traits for positive, impactful living: self-compassion, self-awareness, self-worth, self-reflection, and self-kindness.

1. The practice of self-compassion

Many of us are too hard on ourselves—and too hard on our kids. Self-criticism leads to a self-defeating tendency, which scientifically, makes us weaker by invoking more insecure, anxious, defensive and overly competitive feelings. This then creates even more psychological obstacles for one to overcome to achieve goals or the task at hand. Self-compassio on the other hand strengthens us in the face of failure, as we treat ourselves with kindness and respect and thus, give ourselves the space and time to learn from our mistakes and bounce back with a more informed mindful point of view. This then leads to a more optimistic attitude linked with increased well-being, performance and productivity, even after failure.

It's particularly crucial to instil self-compassion in children, whose emotional walls may become higher and higher whenever they fail, feel insecure, or face feelings of inadequacy. By nurturing self-compassion, you in turn build great resilience by decreasing stress, and instead, draw from a sense of empowerment, learning and inner strength. You’ll teach your kids that not only should they give care and concern to everyone around them, but they intrinsically deserve that same kindness and understanding too. This is why you should continue to model self-compassion by looking after yourself both mentally and physically be it as simple as getting enough sleep to boost attention and mood the next day, and not being too hard on yourself after making a mistake.

2. The reminder of self-awareness

Self-awareness is the process of becoming a critical observer of yourself and the world. It can provide us security, guidance and wisdom—which is the key to unlocking the door to a continuous journey towards self-improvement, and the magnitude of what can be achieved.

The ability to be self-aware provides you with a way to notice the gap between the vision of yourself and any actions that you take which are out of harmony with that vision (self-awareness and self-observation). You need to expand your horizon of awareness at every level using all of your senses, take ownership of your actions, and accept responsibility for your own decisions which will help move you towards self-improving goals. This will create a real sense of achievement. If you operate at low levels of awareness, you eliminate options and opportunities because you simply don’t see them. You may even become resentful and angry with life- a depressed cynic who is stuck in a rut.

According to research, only 15 percent of people are self aware, while the rest only 'think' they are.

Here is a step-by-step thought process guide to help you assess your levels of self-awareness:

  1. Focus your awareness onto any uncomfortable situation.

  2. Describe the situation, including thoughts and feelings.

  3. Explain what happened, what were you thinking and feeling. How did you act? What did you say? What were you trying to achieve?

  4. Evaluate what was good and bad about the experience. What did you feel were the consequences of your actions? What were you were trying to achieve? What else could you have done?

  5. If that situation arose again, what would you do? [This can help you learn and make sense of this experience for future].

  6. Analyse your feelings and knowledge relevant to the situation, change your assumptions and explore alternatives.

  7. Evaluate the relevance of your knowledge. Does facing the facts help to explain or relieve these problems?

  8. Identify any learning that has occurred. In future, action this learning with new experience.

3. The power of self-worth

Genuine and stable self-worth is based upon validating, affirming and valuing ourselves as we are. Self-worth is a function of living with dignity, which exists apart from any accomplishments. Achievements can become a trap. If too much of our attention goes toward accomplishing bigger and better things in order to feel good, then we become addicted to external sources of gratification, relying on things or objects, or by comparing ourselves to others.

Taking pride in your achievements more than your things is nothing to be ashamed of, especially if they are the result of hard work and dedication. Success is also nothing to be ashamed of and can be the driving force needed to spur on others towards creating successes of their own. But before sharing your successes, question your motivation for doing so. Are you looking for affirmation from a particular person? Are you looking to impress or shame them? Be honest with yourself. If you identify a less than positive reason for sharing or you know they are going through a tough time—hold off. Hubristic pride has a little place in the development of healthy relationships and is a world away from self-worth.

Give and take ('positive reciprocity') nurtures relationships and cultivates cooperation and trust. Helping others boost their own self-worth, makes you feel good too('helper’s high'). Reciprocity is social convention underpinned by individual respect for fair play and an awareness that it isn’t kind to continuously take advantage of another person’s good nature and generosity.

4. The impact of self-reflection

Reflection helps us to more deeply evaluate issues, challenge our beliefs, and prevent us from accepting things at face value. When we take time and space to deeply assess situations, it can helps us to connect—or address—any underlying feelings and emotions, to change strategies, make different choices in the future, and avoid mistakes from reoccurring. Self-reflection allows us to analyse ourselves with clarity and give deep consideration to what we see in ourselves—to focus on learning from experience by observing emotional reactions, challenging beliefs, and testing individual norms.

It is this capacity for self-evaluation that helps people to continue growing and adapting, rather than stay stuck in a cycle of coping.

Without self-reflection, we continue to either react impulsively in our own way—resulting in more unexpected outcomes or react too safely and fail to attain anything greater that what we’re already getting. People then find it challenging to discover something new and interesting, especially when their lives become comfortable to them. Every situation should become an opportunity for learning. Reflection stimulates you to think creatively by taking a questioning approach, to analyse a situation while engaged within it, re-evaluate and solve situations through a variety of methods. By exploring alternative approaches, you are exposed to more options (both right and wrong), and will be able to make better and swifter decisions in the future.

5. The importance of self-kindness

Self-kindness is central to changing how you view and spend your time. Be willing to learn new things and give yourself the space and time you need to invest into meaningful personal growth. You can start by creating time every day for a little self nourishment, mindfulness, and doing a little of what you love and what you would normally keep for the weekend. Even if your working hours are long, there are still opportunities to involve yourself in something valuable and fulfilling. A simple act of self care can make a real difference, making you feel good about yourself every day (not just when you have 'time off'). When you make space in your everyday life for what brings you joy, peace and contentment, you’ll be more likely to feel a greater sense of overall well-being.