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Resilience: Uncovering the X-Factor in Young People

Resilience: Uncovering the X-Factor in Young People

I am going to admit something of a guilty pleasure of mine. Sometimes, when I’m hitting the middle of a particularly difficult week, or I’m procrastinating a large task, or just feeling the pressure of life bearing down on me, I turn to YouTube, type in ‘emotional X-Factor auditions’ and after half an hour or so I’m good to face the world again.

For the longest time, I couldn’t put my finger on the appeal of these stories of triumph. When I speak to people about this phenomenon it is generally agreed that there is something heart-warming about watching someone else succeed, let alone someone with a “sob-story”. 

It has since dawned on me that it’s not the success or the sob-story that I enjoy watching play out. A lot of people scoff about the inevitable story of sadness attached to successful contestants of these shows, but I know that these stories are showing more than just a situation we’re conditioned to pity. It shows us the emotional roller coaster, and not just the one happening on the audition stage. It’s the ups and downs that occurred leading up to that one event. The turmoil, the hard work, the determination and the flexibility that these strangers demonstrated to wind up standing in front of a panel of judges and an audience of thousands. Most importantly though, it’s the resilience these people demonstrate when they stand in the face of adversity and deliver sheer, unedited talent.

You’ve probably seen it countless times before in sports commercials or in viral videos, a person bouncing back, standing tall in spite of failure and persevering. Resilience is, after all, an admirable quality and I say this because I believe that while we are born with a certain biological level of resilience in order to survive, the ability to further build resilience from a young age is something that must be taught.

In a clinical sense, resilience is the ability to bounce back from a challenging experience, namely the ability to adapt to change and approach traumatic events in a constructive way. Research will tell us now that resilience can and should be taught, developed and nurtured, and we have a responsibility as parents and educators to ensure that this happens.

We know instinctively that we must teach young people to stop avoiding difficult or challenging events, and start experiencing them. This will enable young people to find way to cope with the inevitable hardships of life, in doing this they’ll be able to access their personal resources (physical, mental and emotional).

In recent times, especially with the advancement of technology and social networking, psychologists are doubting the resilience of young people. Children are spending more time invested in social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where tendencies of self-objectification and feelings of low self-worth are common. It is this reason that Australian psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg believes young people today do not have the capacity to be strong or overcome diversity. They simply aren’t facing obstacles that build resilience. As he puts it, “there’s not much adversity in your bedroom.”

It is this reason that now, more than ever, we have a responsibility to build resilience in the young people in our care, whether that be through classroom or home programs like EQOPD, or simply not over-protecting them from situations that may be negative. We need to allow children opportunity to make decisions and let them experience the consequences of bad decisions so that when they leave school, enter the work force, or head to university, they have the ability to negotiate difficult situations.

Every child deserves that X-factor moment of triumph, that feeling of overcoming something difficult, standing tall and proud and taking control of their goals, their dreams and their future.

For some simple strategies and a good place to start head over to 10 Tips for Raising Resilient Kids.

​Cher Williams

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