Turn back the clock four years to 12:02 am, Monday, 14th November 2016. I held my son as the violent 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake wreaked havoc around us. It tore through our home with a monstrous roar. We hunkered down until it was safe enough to get out. With little arms wrapped around our necks, we found our way out through clouds of plaster dust.
Our feet swept away shards of broken glass and crockery covering the kitchen floor while chimney bricks skipped off the roofing iron. We got into the car and backed away from our house. My two-year-old daughter cried in confusion and my four-year-old son’s face was bloodless, his teeth chattering in shock.
The experience of guiding my children through their trauma inspired an award-winning children’s book initiative, My Big Moments, which I co-founded with friend and business partner, Flicka Williams. My Big Moments is a range of personalised picture books helping children through challenging events they face in early life. The books, written in consultation with child development experts, act as an effective and playful way for kids to approach difficult situations with curiosity and confidence.
The idea behind My Big Moments was to create credible resources to foster resilience and adaptability in kids, making the tricky job of parenting a little bit easier. But first, to find my own true understanding of resilience, I had to go on a personal journey of rupture and repair.
After the earthquake, I was running on adrenaline, throwing myself headlong into getting life back to ‘normal’. But, normal, with its familiarity, predictability and security, was gone. I couldn’t accept that life would be camped out on shifting sands for the foreseeable future, until I was forced to. Four months after, I burnt out with adrenal fatigue. I had no choice but to surrender and reconcile myself with that new reality.
Resilience is not about ‘powering through’. Resilience is a learnt toolbox of techniques and behavioural traits that support you through times of adversity. To be resilient is to emerge from life’s trials intact, even if a little bruised and bloody. The way we become resilient is through role-modelling from those with which we share our deepest emotional connections. However, I realised had some work to do.
While I’d committed to being present and compassionate with my children’s healing process, I neglected my own. My children were watching me and learning from everything I was showing them. That realisation, along with my body’s protest, made me surrender. I began changing my habits, behaviours and attitudes and started properly assembling a toolbox for resiliency.
Three years on, my marriage ends and shortly thereafter, lockdown is declared. All together at home we were navigating the greatest emotional, mental and physical upheaval we’d ever known. I felt keenly aware through those months of transition, our children were taking their cues from how we handled ourselves and one another. We didn’t what them to bear the brunt of our choices and be traumatised by the major changes that were happening. I needed to access my toolbox of resilience more than ever before, at a time in my life I’d never felt more broken.5 Ways to Role-model Resilience (When You’re Struggling)
Get help when you need itStay connected with your support network — your closest friends, family and professional consultants. You may not feel like talking to many, but choose a few reliable people that can be physically, mentally and emotionally available to you. Ask for help and support when you need it and accept help when it’s offered.
Know when to take a breakListen to your body’s whispers before it needs to shout. Through times of high stress, the demands on your physiology are greater and your body and mind need dedicated time to regroup and recharge. It might be stopping to sit and have a cup of tea or taking a routine nap. Sometimes, the most productive thing you can do is rest.
Prioritise well-being practicesChoose restorative practices that are nurturing to the body, mind and spirit. It may be taking gentle exercise in nature, doing yoga, meditation, mindfulness, breathing techniques, journaling or taking a bath and listening to music. Create little rituals for yourself and be diligent in carrying them out.
Take ownership of your actions and emotionsWe can’t always speak or act in a way that we’re later proud of when we’re stressed out and feeling reactive. However, ruptures can teach resilience, so long as there is also a repair. It’s not necessarily comfortable to be accountable for lapses in our own conduct, but giving or receiving a quality explanation and apology is extraordinarily powerful, as well as healing for those involved.
Talk positively about yourself and the futureResiliency is the ability to face challenges or setbacks and see a way forward. Foster an optimistic, growth mindset and use positive self-talk. The way we talk about ourselves and the world around us shapes our memories and perceptions of our individual experience. We are responsible for choosing the lens through which we view our lives. Be confident that you have what it takes to keep moving forward.
Resiliency in kids is primarily determined by strong emotional connections with parents and caregivers, in an environment that feels safe and secure. That quiet story time, when parent and child sit together, creates the perfect environment for building those strong, secure connections. It’s a time for being close and opening important conversations about how to handle different situations happening in their lives.
Reading a My Big Moments book creates a powerful dynamic for supporting children’s development. Through engaging storytelling, well-researched concepts, and promoting dedicated one-on-one time, the books are an effective and playful way for kids to approach big moments in life with curiosity and confidence.
My Big Moments launched in November 2019. As word spread, parents came to us asking if we would write books on specific topics. Most commonly, the subject of child anxiety was raised — an issue affecting more and more families. We focussed on writing a story that would help families raise resilient kids, giving them tools to handle the myriad anxiety-inducing pressures in their modern world.