Extracts taken from an article by Sheila Wayman & her interview with Jolanta Burke, positive psychologist and PhD researcher.
We all want our children to be happy and the temptation, in this era of “over-parenting”, is to rush in to try to fix their problems. A child down the road was mean? Let’s ring her mother. The teacher was giving out? We’ll complain to the principal. Dropped from the A team? We’ll have words with that “stupid” coach
Too often we’re overprotective, we overintervene and we can also be overgenerous with material things, for fear of disappointing a child. In misguided attempts to remove all causes of unpleasantness, we’re not recognising that children have to learn to cope with unhappiness in order to be happy. We concentrate on raising our children for success and not failure, although life, inevitably, is about both.
Parents would love to spare their children all pain and suffering, agrees psychologist Tony Bates, founding director of Headstrong, the national centre for youth mental health, “but that is not going to happen”. The best thing we can do is to equip children to deal with adversity.
These coping skills will help them develop resilience: an ability to “bounce back”, to persevere and not be unduly affected emotionally by setbacks. Resilience, however you get there, comes down to “a young person having a good sense of self”, explains Bates.
They learn that sense of self through their interactions with adults in the world, primarily home and school. If they experience low expectations, that’s hurtful and leaves them feeling lost but, equally, unrealistic high expectations are very damaging.
“Young people are trying to discover who they are and what they are capable of. Our interactions with them communicate a lot of important information about that: if we underdo it or overdo it, we are selling them short.”
Building resilience in children is “getting the message to them that life isn’t fair and everybody doesn’t have to love you; it’s how you deal with these things when they come along”
Parents are trying to repair things all the time for their children. But what you really want is for them to be able to solve their own problems and learn to withstand stress.
The school also needs to look for situations where the children are not doing well and praise their persistence. Challenge them to give it another try. It is about teaching children optimism and it is important that, when things go wrong, they don’t blame themselves unduly.
So next time you’re rushing in to dig your child out of a hole, ask yourself whether standing back and encouraging them to climb out themselves would be a better “fix” in the long term.
Theme of resilience closely links with our perseverance gospel value: https://primarysite-prod-sorted.s3.amazonaws.com/holytrinity-ceps/UploadedDocument/851ce86aab7d44c78b0620b58916b007/gospel-newsletter-persevernace.pdf