Our Highbury LAD Centre talk for Term 3 was on the theme of Building Grit and was presented by Sia Rees and Rebecca Simpson, both Counselling Psychologists. This blog is written by Bianca Woolley and shares my outtake on their talk.
Rebecca and Sia's talk was subtitled 'How to build resilience in your children when they are running on low' and I found it such a fresh take on the topic of grit. They talked about how all children face challenges that their parents cannot protect them from... things like exam times, dealing with loss or change, and even the day-to-day social dynamics can all make boys feel like they are running on low. Children can experience small things as actually high stress, even things like saying goodbye in the morning, or a parent saying 'no'. The most powerful weapon to fight off the effects of stress is resilience, and the trick to resilience is to keep your 'cup' full.
Sia and Rebecca explained the concept of your 'cup' as a helpful exercise to do both as parent and together with your child. You visualize, or even draw, a cup. Bad things happen in life, but when your 'cup' is full, you have a lot to draw on to be able to cope with it. There are several areas of your life that can fill, or drain, your cup:
- School or Work
What are your cup fillers? Know what they are and encourage them. It could be as small as reading a magazine in a hot bath or having a run or attending an inspiring talk. It can be helpful to make it something within your control. Ask: "If you were stuck at home, alone, and it is raining, what would you do for fun?"
What are your cup emptiers? Know what they are and avoid them. These are things that provoke stress or anxiety. The same thing (e.g. throwing a child's birthday party) may be a cup-filler for one person and a cup-emptier for another. Remember that cups can empty faster than they fill up so be conscious about filling it up. Financial stress, illness/injury and trauma are all common cup emptiers, but sometimes there can also be small things like feeling rushed.
Here are a few starting points for discussions:
Which members of your family/extended family and friends are 'cup fillers' and who are the 'drainers'? Who does your child most connect with? Are you making time for them?
Is work or school a passion or something you do because you have to? Do you feel differently about different parts of it e.g. academics / sports / cultural activities?
Are you happy? What are the things that bring you or your son joy? What do you get meaning from?
What is your moral code? How are you living and are you following your moral code?
Are you getting enough sleep? Exercise? Healthy food? Have you been sick? Gut health has a strong link to anxiety and depression as there are neuro-receptors in the gut so it can help to feed your children well to fill their cup in tough times.
As parents, we regulate our children when they are very small, we are their 'cup'. It is so valuable if we can teach them how to do this for themselves, through becoming more aware. It is all about knowing what you can turn to if you are feeling low. By keeping our cups full as parents, and teaching our children how to fill their cups, we can all become more resilient to the challenges that life presents.