Sheryl Sandberg: How to Build Resilient Kids, Even After a Loss

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

After my husband’s death, I set out to learn everything
I could about how kids persevere through adversity.

By SHERYL SANDBERG APRIL 24, 2017

Two years ago, in an instant, everything changed for my family and me. While my husband, Dave, and I were on vacation, he died suddenly from a cardiac arrhythmia.

Flying home to tell my 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son that their father had died was the worst experience of my life. During that unimaginable trip, I turned for advice to a friend who counsels grieving children. She said that the most important thing was to tell my kids over and over how much I loved them and that they were not alone.

In the fog of those early and brutal weeks and months, I tried to use the guidance she had given me. My biggest fear was that my children’s happiness would be destroyed by our devastating loss. I needed to know what, if anything, I could do to get them through this.

I also started talking with my friend Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor who studies how people find motivation and meaning. Together, we set out to learn everything we could about how kids persevere through adversity.

As parents, teachers and caregivers, we all want to raise resilient kids — to develop their strength so they can overcome obstacles big and small. Resilience leads to better health, greater happiness and more success. The good news is that resilience isn’t a fixed personality trait; we’re not born with a set amount of it. Resilience is a muscle we can help kids build.