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Resilience vs Resistance

Amidst a global pandemic, how do we help our young people ‘bounce back’?

Author: Mandy Smith

With a new school year on the horizon, it's difficult not to think about the challenges we’ve all faced over the last couple of years during the pandemic; this is especially true for students. From online learning to the uncertainty of the future, combined with a lack of social interaction - it’s certainly taken a toll. So, how can we prepare our young people to approach this new year with a fresh perspective and help them to overcome challenges and a healthy way? One solution is to build up one's Resilience.

Resilience is the ability to recover, or “bounce back” when faced with challenges, disappointments or unexpected changes. Equipping our young people with strategies and tools to help themselves through difficult times can help them to become more self-reliant, positive focused and resilient when faced with challenges.

How can we develop resilience?

Emotional expression:

Although we’ve come a long way, the effects of the pandemic continue to linger in Hong Kong and many of us remain concerned about the unknown. In fact, many students remain pessimistic about the probability of returning to online learning in the upcoming school year. It’s important to express these thoughts and feelings in a healthy and productive way. Here are some suggestions:

  • Journalling. Writing down our thoughts and feelings can often be a very cathartic process. We are better able to “let things go” by getting it out of our heads and onto paper. It can also be a good strategy for improving self-understanding and identifying exactly what is causing the most concern or stress. For younger kids, consider guided journaling where they respond to questions such as “what am I looking forward to the most?”, “what do I feel nervous about?” and “what feelings am I having about this school year?”

  • Challenging self-talk. We’ve all experienced many disappointments and challenges over the last few years, and this can have a negative impact on our thinking patterns. It can be difficult to not apply our negative experiences to our predictions for the future, especially when it feels like you’ve been let down time and time again. This can lead to catastrophic thinking patterns, whereby we become preoccupied with unfavourable, “worst case scenario” outcomes for any situation. It’s important to challenge these thoughts and consider their validity. Ask yourself: “What evidence is there that proves this thought is true?”, “If there is no evidence, is there any that is contrary to my thoughts?”, “Are there any other possible alternative outcomes, and if so, how likely is it that each will come true”, and “can I interpret the situation in alternative ways?”.

How can i support my child?

Gratitude & Validation:

  • Validate Concerns. It can be very empowering to young people to know that they are not alone and that what they're feeling is valid. If your young person is expressing concerns, acknowledge that they are valid and that you may also share some of the same feelings. Remind them that it’s normal to have strong feelings during difficult times, but we don’t need to let these concerns overwhelm or consume us.

  • Gratitude exercises. When we focus heavily on what’s gone wrong, we often forget to think about what's gone right. Taking inventory of what you’re grateful for can be a powerful tool to regain a sense of control, and can help shift one's perspective to be more positively focused. Expressing gratitude can be as simple as having a conversation about what everyone is grateful for in different areas of one’s life: “What am I grateful for as a student?”, “Even though the previous school year was difficult, I am grateful for/that …”, “I am most proud of myself for how I dealt with …”. Using these as a conversation guideline, you can help your young person discover their achievements and successes, and help them to identify the positive aspects of an unfavourable situation.

  • Another strategy for expressing gratitude is to extend a helping hand to others. During difficult times, we tend to focus our attention inwards and become wrapped up in how it's affecting us personally, which can sometimes cause a spiral of a “woe is me” mentality. By refocusing our mindset on what we can control, and how we can use our control to help others, we can begin to feel more confident and optimistic, while also building our sense of community and togetherness during hard times. Some ways to help others could be:

  • Volunteering at an aminal shelter. There are countless rescue organizations around HK that would appreciate a helping hand. Plus, you might get to snuggle some cute puppies, so everybody wins!

  • A beach cleanup. With the recent heavy rainfall, many of our beautiful beaches have been slammed with trash. A beach clean-up is a great way to positively impact, and perhaps even inspire, a large number of people.

  • Reaching out to a friend. Does your child have a friend who’s finding it difficult to transition into this new school year? Encourage your child to support that friend by sharing some of the strategies they’ve learned from this post!

what if i am struggling too?

Most importantly, whether you're a parent, caregiver, nanny, school teacher or family friend. Fostering and developing your own resilience is important to model essential life skills for the young people in your care. If your resilience is at an all time low or you're struggling more and more each day, please reach out to our team to receive the guidance and support you deserve.

thoughts & notes

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