Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you:
- You realize at hour four of a six hour drive to your campsite that you’ve left all of the drinks in the refrigerator at home.
- The sunny afternoon walk with your kids is ruined when biting flies descend in swarms.
- The trip to the playground comes to a screeching halt when one of your kids falls off the monkey bars and ends up with a bloody nose.
- Your geocaching adventure turns hostile when you can’t find a single cache.
Unless you’ve had unbelievably good luck, these scenarios are ones you can relate to—and you’ve probably got some outdoor disaster stories that rival the ones on the list (which all happened to my family, by the way). As much as I love the outdoors, it’s unpredictable. However, it’s that unpredictability that can teach an important lesson about ADAPTABILITY.
According to the video produced by Character Trades, “ADAPTABILITY is eagerly embracing a change in plans without complaint. The opposite of ADAPTABILITY is INFLEXIBILITY, holding tightly to something that prevents me from embracing an alternative.”
Okay, but how important is it that our kids learn to be adaptable? After all, we spend most of their young lives teaching them routine, with rules, curfews, and boundaries firmly in place. Why should they need to be adaptable? Here are just two answers to that question:
- In an article titled “How to Demonstrate Adaptability on the Job,” Neil Kokemuller highlights four traits of adaptable people that make them suitable for the 21st century workplace:
- Adaptable people are able to come up with alternative solutions to problems.
- Adaptable people accept surprises more easily, making the working environment more productive.
- Adaptable people easily accept new roles, important in rapidly changing workplaces.
- Adaptable people show calm and confidence, which helps them make quick decisions.
- In a Journal of Educational Psychology study of 969 Australian high school students, researchers found that “Young people who are more adaptable were more likely to participate in class, enjoy school, be more satisfied with life, have higher self-esteem, and have a more concrete sense of meaning and purpose in life.”
I acknowledge that some kids are just less flexible than others. Some children will balk at the idea of change in any form (and many adults feel the same way, hopefully without the screaming tantrums). It’s true that a child’s personality definitely plays a role, but outside adventures are a great way to teach the benefits of adaptability.
Here are five tips to encourage ADAPTABILITY in kids in an outdoor setting:
- Discuss adaptability in nature: The natural world is filled with examples of adaptability. Just as chameleons change color when threatened and trees grow deeper roots when water tables are low, the natural world shows us many ways to change, adapt, learn, and grow. The process is rarely a fast one, but nature has much to teach us.
- Model adaptability: I wrote a post about unrealistic expectations recently. In the process, it occurred to me that by reacting badly when my plans for our family’s outdoor adventures went awry, I was teaching my sons to follow suit. Rather than modeling adaptability, I was showing resistance and inflexibility. As parents, caregivers, and role models, it is our place to teach kids to accept change—not to fight against it.
- Acknowledge emotions associated with change: For many, change is frightening. We’re more likely to put up with the miserable we know than try something new. Outdoors settings represent an added component to these emotions, heightening fears of failure or worry about “doing it wrong.” However, these outdoor experiences also allow for more flexibility without dire consequences (yes, there are exceptions; I’ll save those for another post on another day): Can’t go on a picnic because it’s raining? Plan a puddle-jumping contest instead. Blow a bike tire in the middle of the family ride? Have a contest while walking back to see who can identify the most birds flying overhead.
- Think about opportunities afforded by unexpected changes: The idea of a “Plan B” is really a cliche since we discuss it so often, but having a Plan B, an alternative activity, in mind can keep problems in perspective. If something goes wrong, what could you do instead? Often the alternative ends up being as good—if not better—than the original plan.
- Praise flexibility. If we want to emphasize good behavior—in ourselves or in our children—a quick word of praise goes a long way. “Nice job rolling with the changes!” I’ve said to my sons—or “I’m so glad you decided to try out this trail instead of the one we’d intended.”
A confession: I’m not great at this idea of adaptability. In scenario A at the beginning of this post, the one with all the drinks left at home (for a week-long trip no less!), I fumed in the truck after the discovery. Admittedly, this was a minor issue that was easily remedied with a stop at a convenience store. My sons actually loved the fact they got to choose their own drinks, making that part of the trip better for them than what I’d planned. It was their flexibility that I leveraged later in the trip when it was too cold to do a planned activity and they were upset. “Remember how getting to pick your own drinks was better than what we’d planned?” I asked them. “Let’s think of something else we could do that would make today better.”
The natural world is a great model of adaptability and an excellent teacher, too—if we let it.
What outdoor activity disasters have happened to you and your family? Were you able to be adaptable and save the day?
Read more of my Blogging From A-Z Challenge posts: 26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside.
Really great first post! Looking forward to B! 🙂 Mary Lou from Me In The Middle
Thanks, Mary Lou! I think I’m encouraging myself as much as anyone else with these ideas, but they’re fun to write. Thanks for the visit!
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I am quite inflexible myself, but I do recognize the importance of adaptability. My husband is very flexible and it helps him greatly at the job.
I fully understand being inflexible, Astrid. I am a bit of a control freak, but I’m trying to reform myself and relax more! My husband is a special ed teacher and the most patient person I know, so I’m learning from him! 🙂 Thanks for the visit!
Adaptability is indeed a vital characteristic for parents to have especially outdoors with the kid. Informative take, Amy! 🙂
A Reading Writer
In my head, I know all these things to be true, but I still find myself trying to manage situations too much. It’s tough to balance adaptability and organization. I’m slowly learning!
Wow, I can see that I’m going to to learn such a lot this month. Great A post, looking forward to B.
Thanks for stopping by, Kimberley! This theme just sort of stuck in my head with spring approaching, so we’ll see how it goes!
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Great info! A+ for your first post!💕
Thanks, Marquessa, for your kind words and for the visit! April is going to be an interesting month, but I’m having fun writing these posts.
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Kids tend to be more flexible than adults. 🙂
Writer In Transit
So true! I learn from my kids every day. Of course, I have one son who is following in my control-freak footsteps, so I’m trying to undo the damage I’ve done to him! Thanks for saying hello!
I’m trying to be more flexible – keep an open mind to my schedule so I won’t cave in to the urge to flip tables and kick chairs when something goes REALLY wrong.
As an aside, I went on a family trip last summer and I packed earlier than my siblings – and I thought “hey, look at me eager beavering through this”. Only when it came time to sleep, I realized I forgot to pack any PJs.
After my family laughed at me, and I moped at being so stupid, my mom offered me her extra PJs and I got through the night. All about the adapting and keeping the (inner) peace.
Oh, Marna, I’ve done that exact same thing! With me, it’s like I get everyone else’s stuff ready to go–and then forget half of my own! I’m slowly learning that it’s not about what happens–it’s about our reaction to what happens that matters. I’m a slow learner, but I’m getting there! Thanks so much for the visit!
Very Nice Post… I am the AtoZ police [sort of] making sure you are still participating, if you are not let me know…
Welcome in the letter “A”… thank you!
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Stop over and find a free “SIX STRINGS: BLOGGING AtoZ CHALLENGE” Here: http://www.jmhdigital.com/
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Great post! Adaptability is actually my #1 character trait according to The Gallup Strengthfinders test. I’m working on applying my skill to my home AND my work life.
It’s something we can all strive for because you never know what is going to happen!
I often wish I could count adaptability as top traits, but I have to work at it daily. My kids are very good for reminding me to let go! Thanks for the visit!
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Great theme, and word for the day. My sons are boy scouts, and you know their motto: Be Prepared. It helps, but it doesn’t cover everything. We drove up to the North Shore of Lake Superior a couple weeks ago. It was colder than I thought it would be, and some parts were closed for the winter. But, I bought a jacket and we skidded and slipped our way along the trails and had a great day. We decided we’d come back and maybe do some camping this summer. *grin
Mary at Play off the Page
Oh my goodness, Mary, you just said my favorite two words: LAKE SUPERIOR! It’s my happy place! I’m very jealous you were just there. It’s a bit too isolated (and FRIGID!) for me to be willing to move up there year ’round, but I’ll be there every day I can once summer arrives. You just made my morning with that note!
Adaptability is my religion! I have to practice it everyday. I hope my kids learn that from me. Great job! I am looking forward to learning more.
You’re definitely ahead of me then. I tend to want to “control” a situation, but that rarely turns out the way I intend (especially when the kids are involved). I know all of these things I’m including for the A-Z are learned anywhere, but I find myself thinking about them more consciously when outside–perhaps the change of scenery gets me thinking more.
Great post. I like to think I am adaptable – no – I am adaptable. When I look back on things I’ve done throughout life, ie. move countries, move jobs, dealt with life’s hard times, I must be adaptable because I am still sane 🙂 Happy weekend.
I imagine moving countries would leave you no choice but to be adaptable! I often find just traveling out of the country to be stressful since there’s so much I have to learn. Did you easily adapt to new situations when you were young or was it something you learned as you went through these things? Thanks for the visit, by the way!
Great post. My kids were adaptable through having enough of a routine to be stable but not a rigid regime that made them unhappy if it changed… I think adaptability = creativity. Always a good skill! ~ A-Z Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com
That mix of stability and flexibility is really important for kids, I think. With my first child, we were so focused on routines that our lives were miserable whenever something interrupted that routine. By the second child, we learned that lesson! Thanks for wandering over!
Thinking I’m an expert at adaptability when I travel with friends but my close family might disagree. Nice start for A-Z.
Isn’t it interesting, Marjorie, the way travel tests us? I find there are some people I love as friends but with whom I’d NEVER want to travel! Of course, they probably say the same thing about me! 🙂 I’m slowly learning that being adaptable doesn’t mean I have to throw out the plan entirely–just be prepared for things to change. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
We’ve been talking a lot at work lately about adaptability. I love the connection you make, Amy, to learning about this character trait from the natural world.
It’s very much the case that all the things I’ve pulled together for my A-Z list can be learned anywhere, but somehow being outside presents opportunities to really challenge and explore ourselves. Or maybe I’m just using these things as a good excuse to get outside! 🙂
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I like this a lot. I admit that I am not good with taking my daughter to new places cause I am afraid of her getting hurt. Even when it all goes well and she leaves with smiles I still have a sense of dread on how things could have turned out bad.
Over the months I have gotten better with letting her do things despite me freaking out internally. I praise her when she does things I am scared of her doing, such as climbing the monkey bars, going down a slide by herself, and running…oh the running.
I have learned that as long as I stand back and observe she does so much better. Instead of breathing down her neck and correcting her with everything she is able to grow and adapt to her environment. She is 2 years old and may not be best at climbing but she tries. As long as I encourage her to do her best she will and that is what makes the experience worthwhile. To see her smile when she does great things.
I entirely understand this thinking! I used to consider myself up for most anything–until I had kids. Then, suddenly, the world shifted and I saw all these dangers in things I always did without thinking. On the one hand, I want my kids to get outside, get dirty, and explore. On the other, I’m worried about all the things they can do to themselves in the process. I sometimes have to remind myself that I got through childhood just fine doing all these same things. I also remind myself that injuries happen–no matter how careful we are. My son fell off the monkey bars in his first week of kindergarten and ended up with a broken arm. It really didn’t even slow him down!
In the end, I try to keep things in perspective. I set boundaries and keep an eye on my kiddos but let them explore. And yes, I sometimes find myself cringing or closing my eyes to their craziness. I suppose the only way to learn is by doing!
Thanks for these great thoughts and for the visit!
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My daughter had that same reaction when she busted her head opened. I was crying the whole time and she is sitting there telling the emts about her day and singing them songs whole running around.
You are right, as child we survived so much. Our children are bound to do the same.
My parents love to mock all the safety equipment we have today–from bike helmets to knee pads and car seats. They point out they lived without all those things–and they lived in houses with lead paint! It’s hard not to be a protective parent, though. I think that’s just a natural reaction to having children, though–I hope!
Great post! I love that you started with adaptability. My luck seems to be that it rains when I want to be outside, so I just teach my daughter to dance in the rain! Cassie from Mommy, RN
Ironically, I think adaptability is the hardest one for me as an adults. I have that tendency to want to plan things. I’m slowly learning that if I bring plenty of snacks, my kids are pretty much up for anything!
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