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How bushwalking builds resilient kids

WORDS SOFIA FORTUNATO

PHOTOS SAM PENGLASE

Resilience - A way to adapt or cope with difficult times such as traumas, threats, stress, and adversity- is something we can help our child build. In this time of social isolation due to the COVID19 pandemic, it made me reflect a lot about this topic. How do I make my kids more resilient for the future? Because let's be honest, after the pandemic is over, there will be new challenges, and probably more often than we presently encounter. I want them to be resilient kids and then resilient adults that can deal with these kind of situations in the best possible way.

 

I grew up in Venezuela, a country in which uncertainty is a common guest knocking at our doors. When I was a kid, there wasn't a year in which we didn't face adversity, whether it was a military coup, riots, crime, or annoying relatives. The unknown of what our future holds has been a common fear for many Venezuelans. I initially struggled with this, but in time, I learnt to build my own resilience. Now as a mother, I want to help my children to be more resilient also. 

 

So here comes my nerdy side. Whenever I wonder about a topic, I find books. For a while, I have been reading parenting psychology books so I can improve my skills as a mother. So in this article I bring you a reflection and a summary of some of the tips I learnt on how to build more resilient kids. And what a better way to start helping them than to go for a hike. 

Hiking will help them to set realistic goals - and work for that goal until they reach it. Hiking to the top of a hill can be a challenging goal, especially with little legs. Help your child along the way, and make them understand that we can't reach it in one go. It takes one step at the time. And if they have never done a hike, take them for short walks beforehand, as it is unrealistic to expect them to hike a hill without prior training. Would you set off to hike Mount Everest without training? 

While you hike, help them to see things in a positive way - Even if the walk is challenging and in times feels impossible, explain that it will soon come to an end. Explain what the positive outcome of reaching the top would be if they keep going. Show them the beautiful landscape and their surroundings, the trees, the bugs, etc. Show them how beautiful it is to be in nature and help them to forget how tired they feel.

Take a break along the way - Another skill to teach your kids to be resilient. It's not all about reaching the goal and being successful, they need to learn the importance of taking a break and enjoying the moment. Once they grow, they will hopefully understand that even if it's important to have and achieve goals, it's also important to take care of ourselves and relax from time to time. Like for any task, taking breaks will help prevent frustration and quitting before the goal is achieved. 

A journey for self-discovery and bonding with others - Two important skills for resilient kids. During the hike, children could discover other skills or interests they didn't know they possess. Also, it could be a good opportunity to help others in times of adversity. For example, the older sibling could help the younger along the way by holding hands or carrying something for him/her. 

 

Praising children for their hard work- It is important than when they reach the top, you praise them for the hard work. Avoid criticism along the way, encourage them rather than putting them down with words such as "you were too slow" or "we could have done it faster" "you cried too much" etc. 

Not to be too pessimistic, but I believe that in the future adversity will be the rule. Only in the last two years, Australian has faced devastating bushfires, floods, drought and now a pandemic. And this is just what happened in a small part of the planet. It is clear that we do not know what the future holds, but whatever it is, resilience will be essential.