I often have many parents chatting with me about building more resilient children.
Maybe their young people are struggling with friends. Maybe they are finding some particular learning a challenge and they just want to give up.
The list goes on!
I know in our house things can be challenging at times and sometimes it would just be easier to give up and let it go. Well, that’s how I sometimes feel. I’m not sure about the kids!
All jokes aside, we all know that building young people that can handle challenges is important. Being able to take a hit and get back up. Pushing through when something just isn’t working for them or something doesn’t go the way they hoped or thought it would is a skill that all of us need. But how do we as parents assist with this?
We all know that growth doesn’t occur without a little discomfort. I can remember when both my boys were in Primary we had many nights where they would come out of bed complaining about sore legs and growing pains. It’s a horrible feeling, but an essential part of moving from childhood to adulthood. I remember sitting on the couch with them saying “you’ll be grateful one day that you are taller and you won’t remember these times”. That is true. They are both pleased that they are bigger now, although they do still remember those uncomfortable nights.
Resilience too comes from living through some challenges and coming out the other side having survived and maybe even grown a little stronger.
We have to let our young people move into and through the hard things, often on their own, knowing that they will be ok, and by us not stepping in and rescuing them, they will be better for it.
I was reminded of this when we went away with the Year 3 students on camp a few weeks ago.
We left on Wednesday with grey skies around us, and the very real threat of rain.
We stopped off at a park before arriving at camp and went for a walk along the Coolum coastline. As we were walking we came across a large section of grass that was very wet and muddy. We walked through cautiously but of course, there were a couple of slip-ups. A few muddy backsides and shoes.
Kids came up to me and said “what will I do?” to which I replied, “nothing right now! You’ll be right!”.
They looked back at me with surprise and wondered if I was going to finish the conversation with a fix.
They quickly realised that they were just going to have to keep going without a solution.
After the initial shock wore off, they were fine and actually were able to enjoy themselves more as they now didn’t have to worry about slipping or standing in mud, it was already taken care of.
The camp continued with rain that day. The camp staff asked if I wanted to change the program to an indoor wet weather option. There was no way we were doing that! Kids were ready for flying foxes, catapults, low ropes courses and more! I wasn’t taking that away from them, regardless of the weather.
We pushed through, old shoes and rain jackets on!
Again, some students were slow to get on board but as the day progressed there were only smiles on their faces as students ran through puddles, slipped down hills and skidded through mud lakes!
As I watched, I realised how we so often stop kids from doing this now. Something that all of us as parents probably revelled in when we were their age.
As the activities finished, we traipsed back up the hill, jumped through the warm showers and into our dry warm clothes.
That night the main question I had from the kids was “Will we be able to play in the rain again tomorrow?”
I loved that question. I loved that there were many young people whose favourite part of their Year 3 camp experience was playing in the rain and mud. Something that they would have actively sought to avoid two days prior.
Whilst this may have been a small part of the camp, it again reminded me that our young people are extremely capable little humans. Our job is to allow them the opportunities to realise that for themselves.
They need to try new things, even if it’s uncomfortable, as that is what makes them stronger adults.
It’s a challenge for me as an educator and parent, but one that each of us should be conscious of for all the young people in our charge. In the process, it might even help us to remember something about ourselves too!
Adrian Ford, Assistant Head of Primary – Upper Primary