Children have several things going for them when it comes to adversity, as well as several weaknesses. In helping your children cope with life’s difficult events, parents should try their best to maximize these strengths while providing support for their weaknesses. So let’s gain a full understanding of what these are.
“My impression is that the natural healing of children is, on the whole, better than for adults.”
– psychologist Martin Seligman (1993, p. 234)
How Children Handle Adversity
A child’s natural strengths’: What kids have going for them
A) A child’s innocence
A child’s innocence is their greatest blessing. When we use the word “innocence” we’re not referring to adult perceptions of innocence based upon what a child does or does not experience, but rather, their childlike way of thinking. Adults have lots of experience, but they are also heavily brainwashed. That experience comes at a hefty price: a lifetime of others telling them what to believe, how to believe it, and what they should think about any given situation. The adult way of thinking adds a lot of mental baggage and is frequently built around assumptions that are entirely baseless.
Children haven’t been as indoctrinated into the adult way of thinking, which gives them an enormous advantage. Things just are what they are to a child, without all that negative added meaning. A child who is molested doesn’t ponder the loss of their innocence or dwell on the perceived inappropriateness of such actions and what it all means (until adults encourage them to); they just react according to what the experience offered, be it positive, negative, or somewhere in between. Since this twisted web of abstract thinking is what adds a great deal of unnecessary pain to numerous situations, children fare much, much better than adults simply because they are less prone to add destructive meaning to different experiences.
B) Kids are forgiving and don’t hold grudges
Children are forgiving. They don’t hold grudges for long, and they come equipped with the mindset and desire to love everyone. This can seem at odds at times with the mindset of adults, whose reaction to an injury is generally to want to blame, punish, and retaliate against others as part of their own personal seek and destroy mission. Kids react to hurt like Buddha, adults react like Dirty Harry. In this regard, our kids are much smarter than we are, and we should all strive to be more like children.
Parents should always make it their goal to encourage and support this natural compassion by avoiding responses of anger, revenge, or condemnation. Such responses will always exasperate the suffering everyone feels and cut a deeper wound in the victim. Meanwhile, responses of compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation will always heal past scars and remove the injury, not to mention help prevent conflict from escalating further. Let kids be kids, and let their natural compassion take over, not the other way around. If it doesn’t surface on its own, it’s your job to awaken it. The true theft of innocence will only come when this compassion is lost and kids are encouraged to think in terms of revenge and condemnation.
C) Kids are resilient
A child’s thirst and love for life is hard to spoil. They have a unique knack for bouncing right back from even extreme adversity, so long as it doesn’t go on for too long and they have the right attitude and perspective to bounce back to. Their positive outlook on life isn’t easily taken away.
D) Children aren’t as dependent on control
A child’s helplessness and dependence upon adults is in some ways a blessing, because it means that they don’t struggle with the same issues of control that adults do. A perceived loss of control or autonomy is notorious for causing psychological injury in adults. Children are used to existing in a relatively powerless state, and so this prevents a hyper-inflated sense of control from causing unnecessary injury.
E) Children are less egocentric
Nature designed children to make mistakes and fall flat on their face. The parts of their brain that regulate social perfection are less active, allowing them to be less affected by what others think about them. For instance, a child throwing a tantrum in the store feels less self-conscious and embarrassed than you do. Because of this, childhood traumas are less likely to scar their ego . . . unless adults create the type of conditions that would promote such scars.