What does your child know about resilience?
Posted on September 12th, 2017
Resilience is a term that is often used in schooling these days.
“Resilience is your ability to cope with tough times by applying your inner strength and engaging support networks. Resilience can not only enable you to face difficult situations, but often provides an opportunity to further develop your coping skills.” (mindhealthconnect.org)
Something that as a coach I always try to talk to athletes about is the challenges they are facing. I do not restrict either to the ones that just are about the sport, or the goals they are trying to be better at, I try to dig into the personal challenges they are facing. In my experience, the personal challenges that are faced are much deeper and more difficult to resolve than the challenges that you face in sport, or achieving a health and fitness goal too, so if we can help athletes work through their emotional responses and problem-solving effectively, you help build the concept of resilience in our athletes.
Having become a parent within the last 4 years, I am starting to think more about the challenges that my children will face as they progress through their development. Challenges that were not necessarily present or are very different now to when I was growing up.
Here is a video on resilience in school-aged children in Australia by the ABC. It is from 2014, however does raise some good points.
What are some of the most difficult challenges to overcome?
Here are probably 3 of the most common “personal” challenges that I see children and adolescents facing. This is my experience from working with hundreds of school-aged children and adolescents especially in the past 8 years.
- The feeling of Pressure to perform (in an educational, social or sporting sense or all three)
- Coping with themselves, a friend or family member who is mentally ill
- Bullying – or harassment especially in an online space
How do I help my child manage “tough” times?
I will talk briefly about my suggestions on managing the first point, as this is one of the most common issues that I see in my coaching of teenage athletes especially.
The feeling of Pressure to perform (in an educational, social or sporting sense or all three)
More and more, the feeling of pressure can be overwhelming to a child or teen, especially if the pressure is from more than one “side.” Young people have different influences including:
- Teachers and school staff (educational)
- Sporting Coaches (Sporting and Physical)
- Doctors and Allied Health Professionals (Medical, Physical, Mental)
- Friends (face to face and online), acquaintances, school students, sport team members
- Family – immediate and extended
I want to make it clear, I am definitely not giving parenting advice to anyone. I make mistakes and I know I will make more, but I am definitely talking about what I have seen and what I have felt has been really good, positive ways to manage stress and help your children build resilience to overcome difficult situations they face.
It may be best to paint a picture of an often occurring situation: A teenager who is good at sport, good at school and who is reasonably popular can have, on a weekly basis the following pressure applied: Multiple assignments due, a state or national championship upcoming, so being in the middle of an intense training block to try to build capacity for work (sometimes the hardest training cycles to deal with), and then they have friends, who always wonder “Why wont you come to the movies with us?”, or the classic “you are always doing “sport” or “you are always studying, why don’t you just take a break?”
Often, most teenagers will manage this well, knowing that school holidays are their time to get away from the pressures of school work and be able to do more social activities, therefore appeasing their friends and getting “back in the good books” so to speak! Now, add a stressful life event, such as death or injury in the family, or family break up, or a friendship that is not working or is breaking up, or an argument at school that goes too far and the teenager is targeted by people at school.
All of a sudden a well mannered teenager, can turn into an angry, frustrated person who is difficult to speak to, get anything out of, and in general is a nightmare to live with.
The concept of resilience is managing to navigate yourself through this tough situation. The more communication you can share between you and your child (start as early as you can and keep this going all the way through teenage years), the more likely you will get to know about how they are feeling. There is nothing like talking to someone you trust. Professionals in the mental health space have a role to play, however from my listening to so many young athletes especially, just talking to a trusted friend, parent or coach can sometimes be the difference between dropping off the edge and staying above the line.
My top three things to do with your child, as a parent every week to help build resilience:
- Spend 10 minutes every day with each child where you do not talk about any expectations. For example, if they are a swimmer, or a rugby player, talk about something else, not sport. Build trust by sharing details of what is happening in your life that is relevant to them. Explain things, do not brush over things because you think they will not understand. Most kids at 10 now, can find anything they want on the internet. You are best explaining yourself before they make sense of it themselves.
- Spend time with your child doing the following: Goal setting, planning each term, identify times of likely high stress and talk about ways to achieve happiness each week, time out, social things they can do to release pressure. If you have a plan for success, just like in sport, it makes it easier to see how you can release pressure. This also helps you child gain ownership of the direction they are taking and may help with understanding how to manage times of high stress.
- Meet with your child’s educators, coaches and become on good speaking terms with their friends’ parents. Often these people will see your child in a different sense and it can be useful to know what they think of things that are happening and you will hear about them before they progress to something that is difficult to resolve.
These are obviously just three strategies. There are more, but to me, communication that is two way and is constant is critical. Like any habit, as soon as you drop this off, it can be so hard to restart communication with a teenager!
Vector Health is coordinating our FIRST athlete specific camp in the September School Holidays! We will meet our group of junior athletes at 9am, Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the second week of the September school holidays and take them through athletic training, including mobility, stability, core strength, plyometrics, strength and recovery training techniques during the week. After training is finished, we are going to provide 3 education sessions during the week on the following topics:
- Nutrition – brought down to a teenage level – where we will engage them in the science of nutrition at their level. What to eat, when to eat it, and why. How food and drink works to help them.
- Psychology – A teenage level program talking about coping with pressure and bullying or harrassment. This is at teenage level and designed to be a discussion. This education session is about helping our young athletes to build resilience that is long-lasting.
- On Wednesday we do a running specific session so the education session here will be largely practical, all about running technique and how important this is in the prevention of injury and the increase in performance.