‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves’- Sir Edmund Hillary
I feel very lucky that some of the work I do is within the voluntary & community sector. The people that work within this sector are often the unsung heroes working with people at a grassroots level for little or no pay, simply because they want to help people or make a change.
At a recent meeting the discussion was around transforming mental health services for children and young people, a topic that has been in the public eye due to the fact that in some areas it is taking up to two years to have a first appointment. This meeting coincided with a report I had read about ‘resilience’ and why children need much more of it, to have a chance of increasing their emotional and mental well-being and improving their life goals.
What is resilience? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is ‘the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’.
The Mind Over Matter report was based on interviews with experts and a survey of 1000 teenagers. It found that many young people are leaving school unhappy and less confident about succeeding in life.
Key findings from the research include:
- Final-year students are half as likely to feel happy (33%) when leaving school compared to 14-year-olds (60%)
- 18-year-olds believe there is too much focus on exams and not enough emphasis on preparing for life after school
- Gender differences: Fewer girls (39%) reported feeling happy compared to boys (50%)
So how can we help to build the resilience in our young people, here are some top tips:
- Don’t accommodate every need – let children develop their own problem solving skills, over protecting your children can increase their anxiety levels.
- Risk – Avoid eliminating all risk from their lives as this decreases their chances of learning to be resilient. Teach them appropriate skills, give them age appropriate freedom and talk to them about risks.
- Mistakes – let your children make them, mistakes are not a bad thing as it teaches them how to fix the errors and make better decisions next time. This is not always easy for parents to watch, but children need to see the consequences of their choices.
- Be a good role model – Practice what you preach, if you want to teach your children how to handle their emotions, there is not point saying this whilst you are in the midst of an emotional meltdown yourself. Admit your mistakes and explain to them how you could have handled a situation differently.
- Nurture a positive self-view – Remind your child of the ways they have successfully handled hardships in the past and explain that it is these challenges that give them to strength to handle future challenges. Help your child to adopt positive self-talk and see the good traits about themselves. Encourage them to laugh lots especially at themselves. Teach them to hold their head high even through times of adversity.
Increasing a young person’s resilience helps them to navigate through the inevitable ups and downs of childhood and adolescence. This in turn will result in them becoming resilient adults who will be able to survive the roller-coaster that is life.