Dr. Rich Patterson

Helping Youth Live the Hard Times

Regardless of the weather, time in the forest is among my favorite times of all.  Whether hiking, snowmobiling, light-weight backpacking, or wilderness canoe trips paddling through the waters of Quetico Provincial Forest, at times, I wonder to myself, how do I find my way?  I’m not always sure where the correct path is or the right trail, yet with experience, knowledge, and a willingness to take a chance, I find my way to where I’m going and back again.  For our kids, such is not the case in their lives. They aren’t sure of themselves; they don’t have the experience.  They often abandon their dreams, beliefs, and confidence with the smallest of things.

Many kids are even unwilling to take the chance in the first place, can’t even dream of traveling their unknown paths. Thus they are reluctant even to try. Without some encouragement from us adults, they feel like giving up, like why try because it won’t work anyway.  Yet this is not what we want for them at all.

As an adult, if you think about some of the difficult times in your life, I mean the tough ones where you didn’t know what to do when you were less than sure of yourself or unwilling even to dream some possibilities, you begin to uncover times that you can share with kids.  Stories about choices, thoughts, and how things turned out.  The difficult times in our lives are relatively short compared to the good times that we experience.

But they are the times that often stand out the most.  If we can teach our youth to be strong during those times of doubt, the times of difficult choice, then we give them determination, a strength that comes only from learning and understanding perseverance.

Learning resolution and a certain doggedness come from sharing your personal stories of those difficult times with them, those hard times when you weren’t sure what to do. They don’t have to be times when everything turned out right; no, in fact, it is far better to share those stories when maybe you didn’t make the best choice and then share how you worked through it to where you are today.

What would be your advice?  What stories about your difficult moments can you share with kids that will help inform their journey down the snowy forest road in the photo above?  When I am up in the Canadian wilderness, everything looks like sometimes.  One island or rock feature looks like the next one, yet I know that a wrong decision will cost me hours and a lot of energy, of which I only have so much.  You learn to read fine details of landscape, direction, wind, and sky to help make an informed decision.

Often you are not sure that you are 100% right, but over time you move and flex with what you’ve decided, knowing that overall you’re headed in the right direction.

I encourage you today to sit down with a young person with whom you have access and share some exciting and challenging times.  Make the stories relatively short and to the point, and then quickly find ways to relate the story to their life, to things they are experiencing or will experience in their life.  It helps to tell them you didn’t always know if you were doing the right thing but that you were able to stick with it, to flex with the choice to make it work.

I like to remind myself that Difficulties Have an Expiration Date; click here to read this post, Difficulties Have an Expiration Date – Dr. Rich Patterson (

The Frugalite has a post about using hard times with kids to teach resilience.  You must read this post, How to Use Hard Times to Teach Your Kids Resilience – The Frugalite.

Enjoy the process!