How to Use Hard Times to Teach Your Kids Resilience

the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and The Flat Broke Cookbook

We are in the uniquely terrible position of watching a whole lot of people suffering financially right now. Not only are you dealing with your own problems, but if you’re like me, you are watching the endless lines at the food banks, the increase of homeless people, families being forced into a nomadic lifestyle by their circumstances, and an overall decline in the standard of living surrounding us. But we can use these hard times to teach our kids resilience.

It’s one thing to deal with your own difficulties, but when the misfortune of others also surrounds you, it can really strain the mental well-being of even the strongest person. Then, we tend to chastise ourselves, saying things like, “What is wrong with you? Jack and Jill next door have it way worse. You have nothing to complain about!”

But you do.

As a person with empathy for other human beings, the overall atmosphere of an economic depression is like a heavy weight pressing down on your heart. The burdens of others become the burdens of all to some degree.

I have found myself almost paralyzed by sadness watching the plight of family members, friends, and even strangers. I help everywhere I can, but I feel like I carry some of their sorrow around with me nonetheless. I have lived in the depths of poverty, digging through dumpsters for food. I know how humbling this life is.

Hard times can change people.

Hard times can change people. Sometimes it’s for the worst, and other times it’s for the better. This is where your mindset comes into play and is most important.

Some people who go through difficult times get stuck in the “why me?” stage. Often, those are the folks awaiting rescue from the government, from friends and family, from anyone willing to help them out. Now, we all need help from time to time, and I’m not bashing those who are in a position where they need a hand up.

But you can’t stay stuck in that place forever. That makes you a perpetual victim, and you no longer have control over your own life. You are like a small boat with no sail or motor, tossed around on the waves, completely at the mercy of the whims of the current.

Others become stronger and more resilient. They learn to make the necessary sacrifices to adapt to their circumstances, and they fight every step of the way to create a new, albeit different, life. And this applies to your entire family. The way you lead them through the difficult times will either make them embrace victimhood or teach them to be strong. In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith wrote:

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.”

A question I’m often asked in interviews is about how I got through my own difficult times, how I took so many hits all at once.

The answer is simple and difficult at the same time. No matter how bad things are, you just have to keep going. The only alternative is to lay down and die.

You can use hard times to teach your kids resilience

When I went through my own hard times, I felt it was my duty to show my daughters that we could get back on our feet through hard work, sacrificing short-term wants for long-term needs, and finding joy in the small things.

It’s up to you to set an example of how to get through hard times with grace and dignity.

You can make your family stronger and teach your children resilience by the way you handle hard times. You’ll find in many cases, this creates resilient adults who are able to withstand the pressure of adulthood without rushing off to safe spaces.  You show them how to keep going, how hard work can get you places that by all normal standards you should never be able to reach, and how to find joy, hope, and laughter in situations that are incredibly grim.

How do use hard times to teach your kids resilience?

If you are going through hard times right now, here’s my advice that is tested and true with both of my daughters. We have lost everything – twice – and I used those hard times to teach my kids resilience that they will be able to tap their entire lives.

  • Don’t hide it. You’re not doing your kids any favors by hiding reality from them. Instead, you’re setting them up for brutal shock and disappointment when they discover life is not the walk in the park you led them to believe it was. Tell your kids that hard times are happening. Get their input. Let them have a little bit of say in decisions that will help you to dig your way out.
  • Don’t play the blame game. An easy trap to fall into is blaming others for your current situation. Your ex-spouse, your boss, your crazy landlord, the shady person who ripped you off, the government…the list could be endless. It may very well be the fault of others, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. You must make the decision to take responsibility and turn things around, regardless of who’s at fault. You may not be able to control what happened to you, but you control how you face the future.
  • Teach them the value of planning. When things go bad, you can’t just hope for the best. You need to have a plan. You need to stop all but essential spending and figure out where you’re at, what you must cut, and how you’re going to dig your way out. Be prepared to get radical. Get your family on board with the planning session. Use a whiteboard and write down the budget and let them make suggestions. Try to incorporate some of their suggestions into your plan. Boxed mac and cheese night, walking to school orwork to save gas…let them give you input and let them know you value it by adding it to the plan. Let your kids be part of the team that saves you all.
  • Celebrate victories. Don’t only talk about defeat and difficulty with them. Write down your goals for everyone to see. If you are paying off debt, use that whiteboard and write out your snowball method payments. When you get a zero balance, celebrate! (Not all rewards have to cost money.)

While it’s our nature to protect our kids from harsh reality, we protect them more by teaching them to face it head-on. We teach them the value of picking themselves up to keep going. We show them by example how to find joy in small things during difficult circumstances. We influence them to relish challenges and persevere.

How have hard times made you and your family stronger?

Can you remember a time when you became a stronger person through sheer perseverance?  Have you used hard times to teach your kids resilience? Or did you take the opposite route and shield them from the difficulties you were facing? Which strategy do you think is best?

Let’s talk about it in the comments. We can all learn from each other.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at Learn.TheOrganicPrepper.com You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

How to Use Hard Times to Teach Your Kids Resilience
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of TheOrganicPrepper.com, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

9 thoughts on “How to Use Hard Times to Teach Your Kids Resilience”

  1. The ability to teach a kid anything depends on the kid and the teacher. Second child was in a continuous rage when, starting school, she found out that first child was seriously disabled: she was traumatized, not compassionate, felt slighted and shortchanged. And 30 years later, she still is raging at mother, and sibling, too. And it’s all Mommy’s fault, obviously.

    There’s no fixing some situations. This is one of them. Some only learn in the school of hard knocks.

    1. I’m so sorry. It’s really difficult when a family member has enduring anger over something that nobody can control and you’re right – some people only learn through suffering the consequences of their actions.

  2. You are truly an inspiration, Daisy. Thank you.

    I have had troubles, many of my own making. Then my health went into the dumpster and I could no longer work in any field I had experience. I tried, I really did. Did everything that the county suggested, got additional training, but still could not find anything I could do, between my health problems and lack of other experience.

    I have always suffered from depression, and it became extreme at this point. I had no insurance, could not get my depression medication, and could not see a doctor about the pain for lack of money.

    It was bad enough, with the possible outcome not a good one, so I checked myself in to a facility to try and get my mind straightened out. The three-week program worked wonders. I was able to get my depression medications and they also were able to get me on pain medication that was effective.

    Thankfully, I have a great family. I was able to stay with my brother while I went through the county programs to retrain me for some kind of work I could do in the shape I was in. I had to file for bankruptcy, and was, finally, granted the relief (one of the biggest regrets of my life, as I had always paid my debts, without question).

    Still no work, so I applied for disability. After one attempt on my own, and then another using an advocate, I finally, after almost three years, was approved. Using every service available (that my working career had paid taxes to support over the years) I was able to find an apartment that I could afford, with Section 8 housing assistance, so I was able to move out of my brother’s place and let him and his wife have their space and privacy back.

    I began writing Prep & PAW fiction, posting it on a couple of prepper websites for something to do when I was not looking for some type of work that I could do from home within the restrictions of the disability. When Amazon Kindle program became available, I published some of my stories through them. I began to get a bit of income, but not very much, I am afraid.

    Then I was picked up by a start-up print publisher as his first author besides himself. That helped a great deal for the following several months. Then, of course, everything I had already written was published, and with no new works sales fell, and fell hard. I am still writing, but due to the ongoing medical problems, plus several more that developed over the years, I am once again financially strapped, with my now Social Security (when I hit 67 the disability transitioned to regular Social Security retirement) barely able to pay the main bills, and with the much lower royalty income, the other bills that had been paying are on the verge of not being paid.

    As this article suggests, along with the other articles linked, I had already cut everything else back, and by the end of the month I should be out of one of my rental storage rooms, with the help of two of my brothers and several really, really good local prepper friends. That money not going to that storage room will give me some relief. Enough for me, I hope, to get other things rearranged to make my life less stressful. And that is important, as the stress pushes the ability of my depression medication to keep me on an even keel. As well as preventing another heart attack. I have had several, all stress-related, so I have to keep the stress down or I will wind up with another one, which the heart specialist said might just kill me this time.

    While my situation has been far less bad than yours, and many other people I know, especially since I do not have children, It has been bad enough for me to understand what you went through. And your explaining, openly, what you went through and how you coped and got through it to where you are now, I find truly amazing and, as I said, inspirational.

    Keep up the good work, about prepping, about the side issues that affect prepping, and about the dangers we all face now and more in the future.

    I usually sign with the statement that whatever it was I posted was just my opinion. Well, this one is not my opinion, it is simply the truth.

    Thank you, Daisy.

  3. ‘Whilst it is important to be honest with children when a crisis or problem arises we always tried to project a positive but realistic attitude. Children are uncomfortable when things don’t go according to plan and are unconsciously watching the adult for clues as to how they should react. Is mum or dad angry, upset or crying or are they positively taking action to resolve the problem. Raising our children there were a few ‘sink or swim’ situations and our regular reaction as parents was, “Wow! Here’s an opportunity to learn and grow.” Now as adults they smile and roll their eyes when, on occasions, I remind them that in the midst of their own adult crisis they have an opportunity to learn and grow.

  4. Good article. My kids learned about finances by facing hard times with the family. When they wanted money they soon followed my example and baked sweets to sell in the neighborhood. I sold 60 pies a week for years to meet needs. Folks from 25 miles around would send in orders or ask me to bakes holiday pies ect. I tried to stick with 60 per week. Daughter made fry bread. Boys baked peanut butter or oatmeal and rasin cookies or spice bars.

    Sometimes when times were really hard I’d bake a bunch of lemon meringue pies and sell at the local Marijuana dealers place. Munchies created a good market. 🙂

    We were always honest with the kids about family finances. They learned to be resourceful hardworking adults.

  5. Children aren’t the only ones who learn from hard times. Hard times can teach very effectively actually. Long term trauma survivors have a great tool set for these times, in fact. Such people know how to read the writing on the walls and adapt to their current circumstances. Survivors know to believe someone when they say they’re an asshole in word and/or deed. One does have to avoid the victim mentality in favor of the survivor’s mind, but once that’s done one has a very effective tool set.

  6. We have faced many hard times, yes there has been temper trantrums at first but now even little things mean more and can appreciate even with their special needs that saving and hard work have rewards. We recently purchased a special swing set for their needs after three years of saving . The absolute joy ! Some days I still get things like I want brought bread or why you always cooking. Because these things all add up to equal more savings for the things that I couldn’t afford otherwise. Daisy your an inspiration.

  7. Children going through rough times will have more chance to be grown up adults who won´t bend to adversities. It´s a lot of work, but at the same time, once times get better, they will look back and understand everything we did to keep them going and safe.
    And I say this from experience.

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