Ruined Hikes and Resilient Families

Have you heard about these benefits to spending time in Nature?

  • provides an opportunity for increased exercise
  • boosts the immune system.
  • lowers blood pressure.
  • reduces stress.
  • improves mood.
  • increases ability to focus,
  • improves sleep.
  • facilitates communication
  • Strengthens family bonding

irina-murza-vENEN2cryYQ-unsplashIf you are like most parents, that list of things is exactly what you hope to give your children!  That list probably conjures up in your mind pictures of families holding hands on a sunny tree lined path.  That is the beautiful, quiet image we all love.

arwan-sutanto-H566W24FyL8-unsplashAnd while that image is important and does happen in real life, another louder image happens as well.  The rain, the cold, the hungry, the dirty, the tired, the skinned knees….these things are part of the experience too. As adults we can become so focused on the image we create in our heads (the happy family in the sunlight), and also on the goals that we set (hike so many miles, reach the summit….), that, when the reality doesn’t match our expectations, parents are sometimes tempted to feel that the experience was “ruined” or even say it was “horrible”.

But what if, some of the greatest gifts nature has for are kids are actually found in those “ruined” hiking and camping trips? 

Turns out this might be the case!  There is a growing body of psychology and physical therapy research that indicates that in order to develop into healthy resilient adults, children NEED to experience reasonable risks and reasonable adversity (like skinned knees, and cold rainy days)!

Recently, during some down time at one of the summer camp at Beaver Brook, one of the camp teachers asked the kids if anyone had a “scar story” they wanted to share.  EVERY SINGLE kid had at least one story to share– and share with excitement and enthusiasm! These stories were important to these kids because they proved, both to the kids themselves and to everyone else, that they were brave, strong and resilient– that they could handle the challenges that life had in store for them.

In her article titled The Story Behind the Skinned Knee, Katherine Dudley says it beautifully:

A skinned knee is just part of the story. The full tale also includes how the child reacted to the fall; the risks that led to falling; the decision-making process that steered to the risk; the support that helped the child feel courageous; and every other skinned knee before this one. As an adult looking back on my ‘skinned knee stories’ in life, I know these are the stories that have resulted in the most poignant learning, self-realization, and development of resilience into my being. This is what I want for my children, and all the children in my community.

So, next time you’re tempted to think an outdoor experience was “ruined”, stop and look for the rest of the story.

Here are a few other resources for learning more about how nature –even, or maybe especially those “ruined” excursions– helps our kids become resilient and ready for the world!

Dudley, K, (2019) The Story Behind the Skinned Knee: Building Resilience through Unstructured Nature Play, Free Forest School blog. https://www.freeforestschool.org/2019/09 the-story-behind-the-skinned-knee-building-resilience-through-unstructured-nature-play/

Hanscom, A. J. (2016). Balanced and barefoot: how unrestricted outdoor play makes for strong, confident, and capable children. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

McGurk, L. (2019, July 12). There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Retrieved from http://rainorshinemamma.com/

McGurk, L. A. (2017). Theres no such thing as bad weather: a Scandinavian moms secrets for raising healthy, resilient, and confident kids (from friluftsliv to hygge). New York: Touchstone.

And here is my own travel blog– where pretty much nothing ever goes right and tons of resilience is developed (I hope) 🙂 http://timetosparegobyair.blogspot.com/

Photo Credits: Unsplash: Photos for everyone

Hiking Family:   Irinia Murza                       Crying Girl:  Arwan Sutanto

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