02 Aug Resilient Children. Time to act!
Nurturing bounce, calm, vitality, engagement and focus.
We look at our child and wonder: “How will she/he make it?” We fret about what they eat, the exhaustion, their weight, the anxiety, mood swings, withdrawal or online absorption. It is our job to prepare our youth for life. Thus, we will worry. But under that 20 years of worry sits the question: “What can we do to help them bounce and flourish?”
Are things actually bad? If so, what is the cause. Is there anything we can do? Will it make a difference? These are questions every responsible parent, teacher, academic, politician, social entrepreneur and young person seeks to answer.
Are things bad for our children?
YES, and mostly getting worse…. on average. But not for all. Some thrive.
Measured and reported rates – accepting more careful study and diagnostic sensitivity – of the following “conditions” have increased (and some links to explore):
- Overweight and obesity: doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents since 1980
- Reduced physical activity: down to 10 – 25% – A global report card
- Poor nutrition and eating habits: an epidemic of empty, processed calories
- Self-harming: up to 20% of adolescents
- Autism Spectrum Disorder: many fold increase now 1 in 68 children
- Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders: 4 fold increase in boys and 6 fold in girls
- Anxiety disorders and psychological distress from 10% up for young people
- Depression on the rise for over three decades (Time, Nov 2016)
- Self-harming (Gluckman report, July 2017)
- Suicide: Global 10.7 per 100,000; NZ 18.7 and Maori 48. (WHO Suicide, 2015)
What is the cause?
It is complex. Food marketing. Technology. Inequality. Parenting. Impulsivity. Expectations. Please review Peter Gluckman’s report above for an academic perspective. Life has always been risky. The gene pool has a role but is exaggerated. Inequality is a powerful indicator of poor youth outcomes. Parenting and caregiving is pivotal. School is an untapped resource.
At the end of the day, it comes down to behaviour. Robert Sapolsky’s new book, Behave, the biology of humans at our best and worst, 2017, is a tour de force. As evolution progresses, the role of parents is to demonstrate and support behaviours that increase the likelihood of survival and reproduction. In humans, at this time on earth, this is the crucible determining suffering or vitality and flourishing.
Is there anything we can do?
Humans, as an advanced, conscious and social species has a robust web of social support systems to encourage more adaptive behaviours. Maternal wellbeing, infant care, authoritative parenting (firm, consistent and caring), smart school support, sport, community networks, policing, justice, welfare and much more form the web that either supports constructive or destructive behaviours.
As in the case of suicide and the many afflictions of youth today, we have generally followed a medical approach of diagnosis and treatment. Important, yes but not the solution. Let us demonstrate and support skills to bounce, master pressure, regulate emotion, focus the mind and engage constructively with the challenges of life.
We want to help by supporting schools as coaching environments for the deliberate practice of these skills. Our goal is to help bring modern biological research into schools in very practical ways including:
- A simple multifactor Diagnostic assessment for students from 12 to 24
- Teachers trained to deliver Diagnostic feedback and coach resilience skills
- Online resources to help teachers, parents and students master these ideas
- Specific training skills during class and in sport to reinforce:
- Secure, confident and optimal sleep patterns
- Integrate exercise, relaxation and empathy into the classroom
- Anxiety management, relaxation and breathing skills
- Smart eating guidelines
- Personal presence and posture
- Impulse control and emotion regulation
- Attention and focusing skills
- Empathy and influence skills
Will it make a difference?
What is the Resilience Institute doing?
Over the past decade we have been able to connect with about 40 schools and most principals in New Zealand. We have run workshops for conferences, trained teachers, introduced parents and even run short sessions for students. School is a powerful community hub. Not only can one influence teachers, the school environment, students and parents but these students go on to join our workforce.
We have called this RISE (Resilience in Schools and Education) and with our recent partnership with the New Zealand Principals Federation, we are exploring ways to partner with schools to create Resilient Schools.
Our work to date strongly supports the integration of simple, evidence-based and practical skills that work together to increase the probability of constructive behaviours.
Imagine if that young person had a good night’s sleep, ate a decent breakfast, had a short burst of exercise and spent some time relaxing and focusing before class. What if a teacher had a method to gently focus on and support constructive learning and social behaviours during class? And when students can share and demonstrate these practices back at home?
If you are interested in understanding more or supporting these initiatives please visit our RISE page. We have started with principals and teachers and intend to launch our student solution at the end of September 2017.
We look forward to your support.