‘She spoke of life as a marathon not a sprint’
The talk to parents on risk to resilience in the senior school hall recently focussed on the devastating impact of mental health issues, such as eating disorders.
Dr Elizabeth McNaught talked bravely of her journey through her illness and as a keen horsewoman she used the illustration of riding a horse and all is well until the horse bolts. She provided an excellent insight along with her father, Nick, and it was a very personal account.
For me, however, the powerful aspect of the talk was Elizabeth’s rise to resilience to become an articulate doctor. She spoke of life as a marathon not a sprint. The ability to be able to meet challenges along the bumpy road is so important and there is much that can be done by families and school, working in partnership, to enable young people to cope with life’s difficulties. All adults naturally want to help children and often they assist by trying to sort out for them their issues and concerns. A friend once said to me that they never wanted their child to be upset or worried. This is not a helpful approach to developing a child’s robustness but understandable. However, what really helps is when children are encouraged to be independent and guided to navigate through the difficulties and seeing that it is normal for life to sometimes be in choppy waters.
Being a parent is not easy and certainly through offspring’s teenage years it is common to be blamed for everything that is disappointing to them. Each young person responds differently to tough situations and there is no one solution to enabling children to becoming independent. However, if they are to develop the resilience needed for a healthy state of mind we must allow them to sometimes fail and not be crushed as a result.
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