GETTING “BACK TO BASICS”
The deliberate cultivation of resilience in our children is vitally important RIGHT NOW! There’s not a moment to lose.
In 2018, I was the captain of a U.S. Navy warship. In my care and leadership were more than 100 of the strongest people I’ll ever know. They were committed and gifted with that special courage that shows up when needed, even if you’re bored or tired.
When you think about a ship of young Sailors in the U.S. Navy, you might find yourself thinking about 18-25 year-old adventurers. Muscle-bound, athletic, and brimming for a fight.
What you might NOT naturally consider is that almost half of those serving in the U.S. military have children. Our “warrior elite” are also moms and dads.
As Captain, I knew that the warship’s “operational readiness” was immediately tied to our Sailors’ “family readiness”. And so I went to work.
I wanted to make certain that our military families had the tools to raise children resilient enough to endure the hardships of family separation. I talked to every expert I could find. Stanford University Bing Nursery, University of South Dakota Medical School, Fleet and Family Readiness Services, and a countless number of other childhood development experts. I asked them simply, “What can parents do to help their children thrive despite the burdens of military life?”
I thought the experts would reply with a library of esoteric meanderings which I would somehow need to translate into everyday wisdom. As it turns out, the answer to my question was as plain as it was elegant.
“On all those days when you are not deployed or preparing to deploy, take your children outside, and play together."
As simple as it seems, this was the advice of nearly every expert. Playing outside -particularly in wilderness spaces- requires careful thought and planning. The “great outdoors” has not yet been cultivated to cater to humanity’s every step.
Parents can build resilience in their children through the process of planning, discussing, executing, and revisting the memory of a shared adventure.
When a child learns to plan, discuss, execute, and revisit the memory of an adventure, they are strengthening a foundation of self-reliance and resilience. This process reorients a child’s mind to consider obstacles as challenges to be overcome rather than circumstances over which they have no control.
Following two years of responding and recovering from the worst viral pandemic in living memory, there has never been a more appropriate time to focus on these fundamental, resilience-building principles.
The stuff of a child’s strength, courage, and grit are found in cold mountain air, salty sea water, and the warm embrace of their grown-up’s hug.