Huddl parent talk in Ipswich to encourage grit and resilience in children
PUBLISHED: 10:57 07 November 2017
We all know people who seem to have the unerring ability to bounce back, whatever life throws at them.
These people have grit and resilience in spades. They exist in everyday life and on the public stage.
Former American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is one of them.
Appearing on Graham Norton’s BBC1 chat show last month she was asked if she felt jinxed - so many “bad things” had happened it was like the universe was against her.
“Well,” said Hillary, who has written a book about her defeat in the 2016 US election. “Some of us are able to overcome obstacles from the universe - that is part of life and part of my book is about resilience. Everybody gets knocked down in life. You may not lose a presidential campaign but there will be disappointments; there will be losses. As my late mother drilled into me, it is not about getting knocked down. That is inevitable. It is about getting back up.”
Hillary said she got through those first weeks and months after her shock defeat to Donald Trump by going for walks, playing with her dogs, spending time with friends and doing yoga.
“A combination of tools and experiences helped me get back on my feet,” she said in that BBC interview.
The good news for those of us who may not have Hillary’s seemingly innate resilience is that it is a skill that can be learned by anyone, whatever your age or background. And, at a time when more young people than ever seem beset by mental health difficulties, it’s also something parents can foster in their children, helping them to withstand life’s many challenges.
Two people who know more than most about how we go about doing just that are Dr Ruth MacConville and Paralympic swimmer Elizabeth Wright, both of whom will be speaking at a forthcoming Anxiety, Grit and Resilience event in Ipswich, organised by parenting support social enterprise Huddl.
Dr MacConville, who has a background in psychology and MA from Cambridge University, has spent 30 years as an educator working with children and families and is a prolific author on a range of subjects, including wellbeing and resilience.
“Resilience is something of a buzzword at the moment but I think it helps if we think of it as encouraging a kind of self-esteem based on character strengths, talents and abilities and capacity for positive relationships.
“It’s important for children to feel they have people who care what happens to them and to know their strengths - saying someone is helpful is great but calling them a helper is even more powerful. If children can focus on the ‘I can’, ‘I like’, ‘I have’ and ‘I am’ strengths, they are on the way to being resilient. It is not easy, it does involve some effort but believing these things can make all the difference. ”
What’s also important in developing young people’s resilience is good modelling from those around them and avoiding ‘helicopter parenting’ so children have a degree of independence or autonomy, within a sensible range, says Dr MacConville.
“The good news is, it’s never too late to learn resilience and changing the things we believe about ourselves - nothing is fixed, we can all increase our abilities by having this kind of ‘growth mindset’ and changing the way we think about ‘failure’ so that it instead of a negative thing it becomes a learning opportunity.”
This is something that’s central to Elizabeth Wright’s thinking too.
Born with a congenital limb deficiency, Elizabeth’s life prospects seemed bleak, but with parents who decided to raise her to be as independent as possible, she grew up with a rock solid self-belief and positive attitude to go on and achieve the seemingly impossible. She competed at her first Paralympic Games in Atlanta as a member of the Australian National Swim Team. During her career she held world records for butterfly and won three Paralympic medals.
She now lives in the UK and is co-founder of a resilience and wellbeing programme, speaking at schools across the country. She says her story shows anyone can achieve great things in life with a clear plan, self belief, and a strong support network.
“Everyone has setbacks but it’s a case of reminding yourself of the good things in your life too and always looking for something positive,” she says. “When I talk to kids I always tell them about being disqualified from my first big race when I was 13. At first, I was ready to give up at that first hurdle but then I decided to have another go. I looked at races as an opportunity to get a personal best, not an opportunity to win gold. If you enjoy something, keep fighting for what you want to achieve.”
■ Huddl’s Anxiety, Grit and Resilience event takes place at Trinity Park, Ipswich, on November 14 at 7pm. To find out more buy tickets visit www.huddl.uk.