I don’t know when I first heard this particular phrase – the one that literally makes my stomach drop like maggots are suddenly plummeting from the sky. This statement is a big fat rationalization. A quick attempt to make the adults involved feel more comfortable. Like someone slathering pretty pink frosting on a cupcake made of sewage and telling you it’ll taste just fine.
It’s the cute phrase “Kids are resilient” and man have I got about 20 years of pent-up opinion on the topic that you’ll want to hear.
I’ve heard this particular statement (that kids are just naturally resilient) shared over and over again. When I was a child, I heard it uttered by neighborhood moms when they had talked about me or other gossip-worthy kids and grew tired of the topic. It was a way to say “Yes, well, it’s all very sad but they’ll survive. Moving on.” When I was a teenager, I heard it from teachers when I said I worried about my brothers who were growing up in an addictive and dysfunctional home similar but different than my own. And I heard it as an adult when my daughters were struggling through my chaotic and difficult divorce process. I watched counselors, legal officials, & well-meaning friends toss the phrase “kids are resilient” on top of my verbalized pile of confusion and concern like it was a magic wand that would ease my fears and solve the serious challenges my children and I were facing at the time. It didn’t.
So I’d like to unequivocally and officially call bullshit on this phrase.
Here’s the deal:
- Being little and not bringing it up, not having the words to express yourself, or not having anyone brave enough to ask you how you’re really doing is NOT resilience
- Burying emotions alive and holding traumas captive in your body for fear of what will happen if they escape is NOT resilience
- Going numb and losing touch with your emotional, spiritual, and physical bodies because you’re overwhelmed to the point of complete shut down is NOT resilience
These are not healthy actions you want someone to take – they’re just quick actions that clean up the uncomfortable emotional mess with the least amount of fuss required by the adults. Just because kids seem to gloss it over or end up going on with their day-to-day routines doesn’t mean that it’s all okay and it doesn’t mean that it’s all over either.
And it really doesn’t matter how far down you shove your childhood feelings, experiences, and trauma because it’s all still there to silently sabotage you. It may be in sneaky, quiet ways or in big, explosive ways but, until you’re allowed to feel and heal from the experiences, they’ll continue to mess you up.
There are zillions of ways that unfelt, unhealed childhood trauma can show up for you. Here are just a few of them:
- feeling “off” like something is wrong or that you’re just not normal
- anxiety and depression
- huge emotional reactions to situations that really weren’t a big deal
- difficulty in accepting and loving yourself as you are
- not being able to be alone
- rage that ignites and burns everyone in a 10-foot radius
- addictive behaviors where you try to eat, drink, etc. your way out of discomfort
- feeling powerless in your own life
- difficulty in social situations
And while we’re talking about this, here’s something else I just don’t get:
When children are born, they need to be taught how to do all sorts of tasks. From simple things like tying their shoes and brushing their teeth to more complicated tasks like creating a budget and driving a car and everything in between. No one expects kids to just know this stuff.
So why do people seem to think that children come programmed with all the emotional intelligence they’ll ever need in life? Why don’t people realize the intense amount of training and guidance that kids require to learn how to process emotions, express themselves, and release energy in a healthy manner? The huge responsibility of parents to teach this stuff to young people can’t just be shrugged off. Millions of kids grow up without being given any emotional tools…yet they’re expected to successfully build a life. Have you ever successfully built an anything without the right tools?! I bet not! And it isn’t your fault if you struggle with it.
Resilience in and of itself is not the problem here. In fact, it’s important to have some resilience up your sleeve for when life gets brutal (as it does). What I’m saying is that resilience has to be fostered and modeled and taught to kids by people who know what they’re talking about or you get all kind of coping behaviors that fall somewhere in the range of “not healthy” to “Wow, how do you do that and even survive?” Raise your hand if you had that capable adult teaching you how to be resilient. Is your hand still down just like mine? Thought so.
So when people toss around the idea that kids are just naturally resilient – that’s crazy-making to me. (And I know you can’t see this but I just smacked my hand down on the desk 3 times on the desk for emphasis. Geez, this statement gets under my skin.)
The point I’m trying to get across before I swiftly exit my soapbox is this: you can’t grow up eating a steady diet of sewage cupcakes and expect to not feel like crap. Because you’re gonna! You’ll feel like crap as a kid & you’ll feel like crap as an adult & you’ll feel like crap even when you start getting mail from the AARP & you’ll continue to feel like crap UNTIL you deal with all your crap – which means acceptance & recovery & healing.
It’s not your fault that you were served the cupcakes. That’s all that was there to eat and you had to survive. But now it’s your responsibility to toss them out, make sure you’re not serving them to others, and to get some help in clearing up the damage they did internally.
Whew. Rant over. Thanks for being here, my friend. ❤️
Don’t forget to click here to become email buddies with me!