The Danish Way of Parenting and what it teaches us about Human Resilience

The Danish Way of Parenting: What the Happiest People in the World Know About Raising Confident, Capable Kids by Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Dissing Sandahl

The test of time has shown that all human beings are resilient. It is our ability to adapt to change that makes us resilient. Life around us is always changing in one way or another if we like it or not. Resilience is finding the light in the darkness, seeking opportunities in challenging times and being grateful for what is here in the moment.

Right now as we go through some very trying times it is all the more important to remind ourselves of our own resilience. Just getting out of bed, making a meal, taking care of your kids, calling your friend or neighbor, even getting dressed is an example of your own resilience. Resilience is taking a situation that seems out of your control and finding a way to reframe it. To pull out the positive, no matter how small it may be because history has shown that from extraordinary times come extraordinary people!

I have been struggling lately with finding my own resilience. My Aunt in New Jersey recently passed away from complications from COVID-19 and my 89 year old Nonna is in the hospital after suffering from a heart attack. I worry daily for her, for the possibility of contracting the virus while being in the hospital and in dealing with the realization that her health is fragile and the possibility that her health may be failing. To me, she has always been the symbol of resilience. I deeply admire how she has handled challenges in life with a calm, strong nature. She has persevered through so much and although it pains me right now that I can’t be there in the hospital holding her hand or giving her a giant hug and kiss, I have to remind myself that she is resilient and that she has taught me what it means to be resilient.

Resilience doesn’t mean acting like everything is ok when it isn’t or pretending that bad, upsetting things aren’t happening. It doesn’t mean you have to be stoic and not show grief, frustration or disappointment. It is looking at challenging situations that might be completely out of our control, acknowledging the fear, upset, anxiety or frustration and reframing how we may see them in a way that allows us to move forward with grace. It isn’t easy, but it is empowering. It is a beautiful gift we can teach ourselves and our children.

It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore.

“However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

The Power of Reframing! A.A. Milne, Winnie-The-Pooh

One of my favorite books, The Danish Way of Parenting, speaks in a profound wisdom to the power of resilience, reframing and living in the moment. The Danes have been regarded as the happiest people for the past 70 years and it isn’t because life is easier for them, instead, it’s how they look at life. It is a fantastic read, not just for parents, but any individual who craves some simple, yet powerful advice about how to live in a better more resilient way! It is extremely empowering. The ability to reframe a stressful situation is an invaluable skill that can actually change your well being. The Danes have been doing this for centuries. They see being a master re-framer as a cornerstone of resilience! The Danes don’t go around pretending that negativity or bad things don’t exist, they just point out that another side side also exists focusing on the less negative aspects of situations reducing anxiety and increasing their overall wellbeing. Re-framing is a very powerful tool that can change our experience of the world.

Good teams become great ones when the members trust each other enough to surrender the ‘me’ for the ‘we.’

Phil Jackson

At times I feel guilty for enjoying this unbelievable special time together with my husband and children. We are fortunate that we can be home together and that we can afford food and have shelter. I am so grateful for this slower pace and for this invaluable time we are spending together. Funny thing is, it’s something the Dane’s have been practicing for years. They call it hygge (pronounced “hooga” ) and they see it as a way of life. The Danes value time together with family and friends it is part of their cultural foundation. During these times they put their personal stressors aside and act in the moment with the ones they love. The Danes value hygge so highly because being connected to others gives meaning and purpose to our lives. They believe that the family is a team and encourage their children to be a part of the team by showing them how they can help and contribute. Encouraging cooperation and togetherness in our closest relationships makes everyone involved feel more secure and happy and brings an overall wellbeing to the family as a whole.

So, as we continue our time together in quarantine and facing a global pandemic, maybe, just maybe we can also build a community of resilience in our own homes and cultivate some of the happiest people in the world!

In Solidarity,


And in case you needed another reminder of human resilience – check out this inspiring article from The New York Times about two extraordinary women who survived the Spanish Flu, The Depression and the Holocaust:

Just ask Eva Kollisch, left, and Naomi Replansky about survival and resilience. Credit…Mary-Elizabeth Gifford

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