We were lucky enough to attend a talk recently by the inspiring Hugh van Cuylenburg, founder of The Resilience Project. His presentation was literally packed full of moments that had us scribbling furiously in our notebooks or putting hand to heart in connection to the stories he shared of his own personal experiences and the journey that led him to the work he does today. We highly recommend catching Hugh live if possible, but in the meantime, here are some of the key messages he spoke about that stuck in our hearts and minds…
· 1 in 7 primary school aged children have a mental illness (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
· 1 in 3 girls suffer from an anxiety disorder and 1 in 5 boys (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
· From his work and research in the field, Hugh points to the significant impact of social media as a contributing factor to these statistics.
If it’s resilience that we’re looking to build up in our kids, Hugh says that three elements are critical…
Research evidence from the University of Massachusetts shows that we can actually change the way our brain works through practicing gratitude. By cultivating a practice of daily gratitude, we can effectively ‘train’ our brains to start experiencing the world in a more positive light. Side effects include better sleep quality, higher energy levels and lowered levels of anxiety and depression.
Work it ~ make it a daily habit to chat with your child about things they are grateful for. Set up a time that works (we find bath time and in the car in the morning best – they are literally a captive audience!) and check in daily with them. What’s the best thing that happened to you today? What are you most looking forward to? What are you especially grateful for today? are all great questions that will resonate with children of all ages.
Empathy relates to one’s ability to understand and share another persons feelings – essentially it’s what we’re describing when we talk about putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is powerful because of its intrinsic link to kindness. Generally speaking, the more empathetic you are, the more likely you are to be kind. In looking to raise resilient children, kindness should always be a consideration.
Work it ~ empathy is a human trait that evolves in children as part of their natural development. An topic worthy of it’s own dedicated blog post, assisting children to develop empathy, simultaneously building their resilience, is something that can be done by parents and carers. Some easy strategies include reading books on feelings, discussing feelings with your child when they present and validating rather than dismissing your child’s ‘big feelings’ or difficult emotions.
Finally, mindfulness – the ability to focus completely on the present moment – has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity as a result of its effectiveness as a therapeutic tool. Typically cultivated through a practice of meditation, it has been shown to have a tidal wave of benefits for adults and children alike. Here at The Brave Space, we are mindfulness fans and students of this skill, continually looking to develop our own mindfulness practice and to introduce moments of this beautiful philosophy to our little ones.
Work it ~ there are numerous picture books designed to introduce the tenants of mindfulness to children. We featured one in our most recent book review, which you can check out here.
For more information on The Resilience Project or to view Hugh’s upcoming events, visit www.theresilienceproject.com.au