This post is Sponsored by Bupa
Did you know that the leading cause of death among young people aged 16-24 is suicide? This is one of the scariest statistics that haunts me as a parent of three children. What is happening to our young people that the thought of death has become a better option than life?
When I was at high school, I can’t remember one young person in my network or my entire school dying by suicide. It was something you did hear about every now and again but it certainly wasn’t a regular occurrence.
Last year we were connected to 4 young people who died by suicide. The youngest was 14 and the eldest was 19. One of these young people was my 3-year-old son’s kindy teacher and it was truly devastating. It was a big turning point for me when this happened and I became a mother on a mission to try and find out how we can support so many of our young people who are struggling.
I feel like slowly, slowly I have been piecing together a picture based on what I have been learning, and questions I have been asking, to try and understand a little about what could help.
I do want to flag that I am not a parenting educator, mental health professional or a resilience specialist in children. I have been a mother on a mission to talk to as many parenting educators as possible and my learnings are my own personal opinion. These are not facts, but my insight into what may be happening.
I have learnt resilience can be a powerful tool in helping our kids deal with the ups-and-downs of life, and life experience plays an important part. Kids need to experience the good and the bad in life from a young age. They need to fall off the monkey bars, off their bike or out of trees and learn through lived experience that you experience pain, but with time it gets better.
Our kids need to experience loss and big ugly feelings from a young age and be allowed to lose their shizzle and have an adult sit with them in their pain, be ok with it and realise that they don’t need to go through it all alone. And they need to experience this over and over and over again, so that ‘knowing’ it gets better becomes a part of who they are.
They need to have pet animals like guinea pigs, chickens and fish that die and be told the truth about what happened and feel all of those feelings and then experience that it gets better.
I will be the first to say I am guilty at times of doing my best to shield my children from potential emotional or physical pain, because I can anticipate what is around the corner, and see something unfolding, so I try and make it all better before it even becomes a problem for them.
I am trying to stop doing this. It is out of the love and goodness of my heart that I want to protect my kids from all the big ugly feelings. But I am learning that it’s all part of the human experience, and it is only through learning to manage these experiences that my children can learn resilience. From what I have gathered, you cannot teach resilience to children in a “life lesson”, instead they have to actually experience overcoming tough times over and over again for them to create the neural pathway in their brains. And we, as parents, can play a vital role in helping our kids learn to manage these ugly feelings, and make sense of them.
I recently did a post on the School Mum Facebook page when all of the cricket controversy happened with the tampering of the ball. I could not help but sit and watch it all unfold.
Although I was very disappointed with what Steve, Cameron and David did, at the same time, I hoped they were surrounded with bucket loads of love and support, because I knew they would have been experiencing some of the biggest, ugliest feelings of their lives.
In response to that post I got together with Kid’s Helpline, Bupa and Rachel Devine (The Unlikely Cricket Mum) to talk through what happened, and how we can use the situation to talk to our kids about resilience. I saw this as an opportunity to talk to my kids, and let them know that whatever they do in life, even if they royally screw up and make an embarrassment of themselves or us that we will still love them no matter what. And for them to know, that no matter how bad things might seem in any given moment, you’re not alone, and if you just give it time, things always change. They always do.
As much as we want to protect our kids, it’s our job as parents to sit with them in the ups and downs and help them move through it. We can use situations like the ball tampering scandal to talk to our kids about big ugly feelings, and show them what it means to face those feelings just like Steve, Cameron and David did. It doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for our actions, but the feelings do pass.
As I said earlier I am not a parenting educator or a resilience specialist in children, I have been a mother on a mission to talk to as many parenting educators as possible and my learnings are my own personal opinion.