Promoting Resilience in teens

Claire had an unintentional lesson in resilience a couple weeks ago, and I want to share it because once again, I keep being taught that so many of the things we try to teach can only be learned if we let go.

Covid has hit the volleyball world, just like everything else on the planet, and volleyball has morphed and changed and rolled with the punches. Because of all the closures and changes, and things finally starting to open up again, Claire had her third out-of-town weekend volleyball tournament in a row this past week.

Sometimes I worry that so much volleyball takes her away from traditional after-school jobs and other opportunities where she could learn so many life lessons. But when I met up with her in Denver last weekend (the middle tournament) I was overcome with the beauty of this sport and all the life lessons it is teaching her upfront and personal.

I could go on and on about that, but today I’ll just tell the story of one, not so volleyball related resilience-maker:

Claire and I were meeting in Denver, both coming from different directions. Dave was going to be at the airport where she was coming from later that afternoon, so we had Claire drive to the airport so Dave could pick up the car she would be leaving when he arrived.

Now, rest assured Claire has traveled quite a bit before. That and the fact that Dave talked through every detail with her made us feel confident that she could do this, and not only could she do it, but it would be good for her. As I was waiting for my flight on a layover, Claire called in a panic from the long-term parking. The only parking spot she could find was not ideal, but she maneuvered it in a way that would work and was on her way.


But ten minutes later she called in another panic: the tram to get to the terminal was broken so she had a scramble to figure out a connection, there was a huge security line, and she was going to miss her flight. She was just sure of it. My heart was beating like 15,876 beats per minute trying to talk her through it all from so far away. But I willed myself calm, told her “no worries, you’ll be fine!” and prayed my very guts out, praying her through it all.

And you know what? That girl made it by the very skin of her teeth. SHE did it. Not me. Actually I think in spite of me since I was trying to tell her so much as she was scrambling along. Ha!

Was it stressful? You bet! Do you think she’ll leave earlier next time she has to do something like that? You can count on it. With every little step of doing something “scary” like that kids learn and grow in so many ways!

Made me think of my Grandma’s famous line we all have memorized:

“When you master the seemingly impossible, it does something for you that fits into your very character for a lifetime, and makes the next impossible thing seem that much easier.”

It was funny that I was standing in line with the volleyball moms the next day and one was commenting incredulously on how another teammate traveled all by herself. So her eyes were as big as saucers when I told her Claire’s story about almost missing her flight and that she drove herself to the airport too!

My 3 Tips to Promote Resilience

1) Believe in your kids.

I think believing our kids can do things like that creates a tremendous amount of resiliency! We’ve got to let them try, and fail, and try again.

We live in a world where there is a lot of coddling going on. I am a guilty one myself, it’s so easy to do things for our kids and to mow out clear paths for them. Oh we just want them to succeed and it’s so hard to watch them struggle. In some ways it has become almost negligent to let kids do things that are tough and seemingly “impossible.”

2) Resist the urge to jump to the rescue.

A while back Claire was in our bedroom late at night and Dave was giving her the business about something or other she needed to shape up on (don’t get me wrong, Claire is a pretty incredible girl, but yes, she has things to work on just like all of us do). It was late and she was tired and there were tears rolling down her cheeks. I came to the rescue adding some insight about all the good things Claire is doing (good cop, bad cop, you know?)

But when Claire left Dave reminded me that it’s ok for our kids to be sad sometimes.

And that little piece of wisdom has stuck with me, I’ve been pondering it for a while. Because it rings so true. We gotta let them do (and hear) the hard stuff. Not everything is butterflies and rainbows, and that’s ok!

3) Help teenagers believe in themselves.

Needless to say, Claire and I were so happy when we got to hug at the airport in Denver! She was glowing with a pride that only comes from stretching yourself and making it all work out. She had done some tremendous problem-solving and she was empowered.

We took the train into the city together and I breathed a huge sigh of relief that both of us made it, negative covid test results in hand, lots of lessons learned, ready to learn more on the volleyball court.

A few good strides in the battle to learn resiliency and how it can change us for the better.

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  1. We also had that Dave lesson recently with our nearly 9 year old. I can’t remember what the situation was but as he was commenting that the lecture was making him feel bad, I told him that was a good thing. That he might just learn his lesson if he remembered how this felt. Mean? Maybe. But I think the point stuck with him.

    1. I am so glad. So important for kids to learn with the growing pains that come along with the lessons!

  2. As much as this is a great life learning story for Claire I also think it’s easier to have those experiences when finances are not an issue. Did you ever think , shoot if she gets into an accident not only are you scared for her life but then we are down a vehicle ( probably not) and would Claire be responsible for paying the repairs on that ( probably not)
    If she missed her flight and had to pay extra because she didn’t leave earlier, you would have bailed her out so she made it to her tournament.
    Volleyball is big in her life but let’s be real it’s not the same as getting a job after school and flipping burgers. She drives a nice car, has very expensive shoes, phones, clothes. Runs around town having fun with no thought of $$
    I think you may have lost touch with reality.

    1. Isn’t it so interesting that everyone has such a different version of reality? We are all coming from such different backgrounds and perspectives so I guess that’s only natural. I hope I haven’t given the impression that we wouldn’t expect one of our kids to be responsible for paying for repairs if they were to get in an accident or pay for flight fees if they missed a flight, but even if we didn’t, I think every parent has to work things like that out with their kids in their own way. There is such a wide array of how people decide to deal with finances in their families and I don’t think there is one “right” answer (although I must say I’m not sure how the accident part goes with this post?)

      You are so right that flipping burgers is different from volleyball. Different lessons to be learned in every avenue our kids take. And I had to have a little chuckle about the expensive shoes and clothes since we have an ongoing joke in our family that we can’t seem to stop Claire from shopping at the thrift store! Perhaps that’s because she has to buy her own clothes. Luckily she’s got an ongoing nanny/babysitting job she fits in around volleyball, but that doesn’t pay enough to get her too comfortable!

    2. I can’t think of a trip the family ever posted where they were not rushing to get to the airport on time having to do one more sight seeing experience. Why aren’t they dropping her off at the airport? She sounded on her own totally where mom was obviously out of state and dad would be at the airport later that day. I really can’t grasp the necessity of these out of state games for sports that are fairly common. Hockey maybe you’d have to go to another state living in AZ to really play against a lot of teams. But they sell volleyballs everywhere. Seems like tons of possible players nearby. It’s not a teeny tiny populated state. I just can’t wrap my head around this. If she missed her flight she would rebook. It happens. Elle got in an accident and had to pay repairs. I think that is something great to happen while still living at home to have parents help you through that process. I think the kids are learning to have jobs work around them instead of conform themselves to the job.

  3. When I was a kid in a similar situation to Claire, I unfortunately did not learn to leave earlier-just to run faster at the airport and talk my way to the front of security 😀 😉 :)! I have gotten only marginally better as an adult, though when traveling with kids I am very strict on time, as paying for 4 additional flight changes is not as fun… Thanks for sharing Shawni!!

  4. Hi Shawni, thank you as always for sharing pieces of your life with us. I know there is of course so much that I don’t know, but from what I’ve read of yours (I’ve been following you for 12+ years), I don’t think you have to worry much about coddling. Claire has a sibling with special needs, and I’m sure that Lucy’s disability has had a uniquely powerful impact on her since she is the closest in age, and spent the most time with you and Lucy during the day while the older kids were in school. You have written a lot when she was younger about the massive support Claire has been in Lucy’s life and all the compassion and coaching she’s offered her — that is a tremendous responsibility to take on at such a young age, and I don’t think we give kids enough credit for how much maturity and patience it takes to understand how and why a sibling’s disability dictates so much for you as a family, and to do it with GRACE. She could have just as easily acted out for the attention as a result of all the extra attention of yours that Lucy takes (though I know you work so hard to give your kids individual attention) or been resentful for how Lucy’s disability has forced her to grow up so quickly. Of course this life experience will give her and has given her amazing perception and empathy (and so much else) that will help her throughout her life, but she has had to be extremely resilient to grow through that and still be so compassionate and loving to Lucy. Of course she is lucky and privileged and very fortunate in many ways, but this sibling experience is lifelong and many of her peers could never begin to imagine or comprehend the impact that has had on her. And on top of that she is grieving the tragic deaths of several friends, and deaths of peers really profoundly impact kids. Sounds like she is pretty extraordinary to be coping with all of that emotionally, excelling at school and sports and church activities, AND being so open with you and Dave during adolescence (so hard for teens to do that)… and during a pandemic of all things that has thrown every ADULT for a huge loop. Of course you have high expectations for your kids and you will continue to have them, and give consequences/feedback as necessary. Coddling honestly sounds like the furthest thing from the truth (based on what you’ve shared). It’s actually quite difficult to be a teenager in 2021, even moreso I would imagine for Claire given everything she’s gone through. Sounds like she (and you) are doing an amazing job <3

    1. Aw, this is so nice of you to say, ThANK You for seeing so much good. I have to agree, Claire is pretty exceptional (but I am a little biased:). She has a heart of gold and she is hilariously funny, and she is fiercely loyal to her siblings (and her parents) which makes for a pretty good combination. Thank you for sharing kindness. Sending some love right back!

  5. Shawni, thank you for this post. I’m sending my 5th grader to summer camp for a few days this summer. He has some food allergies and I have been so worried about everything going well. Thank you for the reminder that kids become more resilient when they do things out of their comfort zone.

  6. Hi Shawni,
    Along with this discussion of resilience and finances, thought of some things id love to hear your take on.
    I know you have shared over the years how the kids have paid for their own things since a certain age, but that the system is ever changing as you grow as a mother. And I was curious to hear what it looks like now with 2 children living at home, one of whom is often gone for sports ans the other of whom has some different needs.
    You’ve shared that Claire has some babysitting jobs for spending money, but is she responsible for all or is there supplemental allowance for chores/grades/etc?
    Do you manage finances differently with Lucy than your older kids?
    Also, as systems change do your kids express frustration over feeling that their siblings had/have it easier than they do/did? I know that was a big one for us!
    Please only share what you’re comfortable with, I know finances and family systems can be a tricky topic, I am just always so interested to learn from moms about what works for them!

    1. Yes this system is for sure ever-changing. Claire is scraping by but is doing ok (we offer to pay for half of her clothes, but sometimes that doesn’t happen). She is responsible for all activities she chooses to do. There is supplemental “allowance” if she does all her “things” on her checklist every day (practice, read, room clean), but we’ve been awful about “pay day” recently. Lucy on the other hand, wouldn’t buy her own clothes if her life depended on it (she does NOT like new clothes), so she doesn’t pay for them. She also doesn’t have a lot to spend money on so she saves pretty well.

      The kids don’t seem to be frustrated with the difference in how things shift and change because the overall rules have stayed pretty much the same, with the exception of Lucy who they all dote over and love so much that they don’t care that we buy her clothes.

  7. Why on earth is it necessary in high school to be flying to other states to play volleyball? Volleyballs are sold in every big box store in America. Surely there are many teams in the state to play against. Why on earth was she driving herself to the airport? So were you both out of town one going to where she left the other to the place she was going? Why are the kids in the family forced to do things three years ahead of everyone else.

    1. I am from a school district that completely stopped all sports last spring & this entire school year & due to covid. The only way to play any sport was to do a club team. The club teams traveled to other states to compete in tournaments. If it were any other year we would be playing those within our district, region & state.

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