I recently let Sam go from his job with Beyond the States. Since Covid limited job opportunities, I had given him a job helping Stefan with our database updates. Though Sam had developed a great work ethic working at a grocery store throughout high school, this didn’t transfer over to working for his mom and there were a series of problems (usually involving me having to call to wake him up to work which really got me riled up….). I gave him many more chances than I should have and after continued issues, I decided enough was enough.
So why am I telling you this? It’s because I’ve been thinking a lot about resilience lately. There will undoubtedly be things in life that knock our kids for a loop. They are also sure to make mistakes in life that will have consequences. I think we all want them to learn from these experiences and apply these lessons to other areas/situations in their life. We want them to develop resilience so that they know how to get back up and back on track when these things happen. I also know that I am sometimes guilty of protecting my kids from situations that would help them develop those traits.
I was recently preparing for a podcast interview with one of our members who attends ESCP. Her program involves studying in three different countries over the course of the three-year program. Having just adjusted to one country, I can’t imagine going through this each year-especially as a young adult! Anyhow, I was looking at the website before our interview and noted that the brochure said “Studying each year in a different country will allow you to become more independent, self-reliant and resilient. All important skills for future business leaders to have!” I thought this was such an awesome way to look at it. It’s not that you have to BE independent, self-reliant and resilient in order to face challenges, it’s that navigating your way through the challenges and obstacles can LEAD to self-reliance, independence, and resilience.
I sometimes encounter parents who are worried about the level of independence needed for students in Europe. There aren’t meal plans, so students cook for themselves. There is much less handholding from the university and many universities will communicate only with the parents, not students. Sam spent a year eating scrambled eggs or noodles before he started to learn how to make a few more things. Some students learn that they like to cook (good to have these as friends…) and others learn that they need to know enough to get by. Either is fine! While I personally would have preferred to see some more leafy greens in his diet, this adjustment didn’t harm him in anyway and taught him a number of skills.
We have one member who started at a university in Prague this past January, right in the height of the pandemic. Not only is the Czech Republic one of the more difficult issues with visa issues, but the pandemic made everything harder and prevented his parents from traveling and helping him. His mother posted in the group in our Facebook member group at the end of the semester about the incredible growth she has seen as a result of him having to handle things like getting a bank account in a foreign country, learning public transportation, finding an apartment, dealing with quarantines and lockdowns, learning to plan his meals and grocery shop, seeking medical care, and working with an agency on around visa issues. I can tell you that they are things that were difficult for me as a middle-aged woman with life experiences to help me. That our kids are navigating their way through these situations is truly amazing! That’s not to say that it’s always easy. It took Sam SEVEN trips to the US embassy in Amsterdam to get his passport renewed. Some were due to errors on his part, others because the embassy was being particularly difficult. Nonetheless, he got it done and (hopefully) learned some important lessons throughout.
So, back to my unemployed son… I keep reminding myself that since we provide him with money for groceries, rent, and necessities, I don’t need to worry or nag about his progress in looking for a job (he would likely argue that I need to remind myself about the nagging part). While I don’t like seeing him bummed about how the lack of spending money affects his social plans, I’d rather have him learn the lessons now when the stakes are lower. Our kids are learning about attention to detail when dealing with bureaucratic nonsense, planning and time management skills when making mistakes on public transportation, a huge range of communication skills when dealing with language barriers or different cultural norms, self-care skills in meal planning and budgeting-to name just a few. All of these things are frustrating, but none are inherently dangerous. By getting through these without having their parents handle or fix the situations for them, they gain patience, independence, self-reliance, resilience, adaptability, and perseverance. These are the skills that can’t be taught in the classroom and will greatly benefit them all through their lives!