This blog is intended to give an insight into daily life at Blundell's as seen through the eyes of its Head.
With fortnightly updates on new initiatives, themed days and general observations, it will give current and prospective parents some idea as to what goes on behind the scenes at this thriving co-educational school.
Post Traumatic Growth – How to ensure our children thrive in a post-lockdown world
Occasionally, the newspapers have a tendency to paint a picture of young people as helpless victims who are going to be scarred for life by this global pandemic. This is true in as much as we are all shaped and formed by our life experiences, but the narrative that we form around those experiences is ours to tell. As adults it is our duty and our privilege to help children develop a constructive and optimistic narrative that empowers them to recognise the opportunities that these circumstances offer and to place in appropriate context the losses and the disappointments that are very real.
In his influential book, ‘Flourish,’ Martin Seligman explains the concept of Post Traumatic Growth in the context of positive psychology literature. Stress can manifest itself in many harmful and debilitating ways but not all stress is permanently damaging and there is a body of evidence that suggests that trauma can results in “a higher level of psychological functioning than before.”
Research has shown that following a period of stress some people do not simply show resilience to pull through their suffering and hardship, they actually thrive and live a more fulfilled and purposeful life than they did had they not experienced the trauma. That is what researchers refer to as Post Traumatic Growth.
Not for a minute do we want to underplay the significance of the global pandemic on economies, businesses, communities, households and individuals, but the question we need to ask of ourselves during these difficult times is: ‘what good can come from this.’ As a parent of teenagers and as an educator I am very mindful of how difficult this period has been for young people and certainly we need to be alert to the very real struggles that children and young adults are confronted with. Many of them will need more support than ever, but let us not forget that the vast majority are resilient, resourceful and determined and we want to ensure that their experiences during this most difficult of times, has a positive dividend for them.
How can post traumatic growth bring positive effects for children?
There are four distinct areas that require little scientific insight to understand.
- The lockdown has caused children to recognise and embrace new opportunities. Many of our children have had to become far more independent in their learning and they have mastered technology to an extent that things like OneNote and Microsoft Teams are now a standard part of their educational experience. What an asset that is to them going forward. Alongside that many children have taken up new interests and hobbies. I have seldom been inundated with so many Instagram pictures of Victoria Sponge cakes!
- During the lockdown children have forged stronger relationships with siblings and parents. That comes with a caveat because it is not to say that all being locked down together under one roof without a break for nearly 9 months is something any of us want to do again, but we have all learnt to live together in a way we would never have been expected to. Stronger bonds are forged not just by family games nights or long walks, but also more simply by learning to get along. We have had to learn to share and to compromise and to cooperate. Whilst the summer months were more fun, these winter months have been harder, but we have not stopped learning about each other.
- The lockdown will already have taught pupils more about themselves, their resourcefulness and resilience. Having experienced a period of isolation, of disappointments and of frustration, our children will emerge and carry on. In future, when they are again confronted by circumstances outside their control or by setbacks and disappointments, they can look back at this time in their lives and remind themselves that they have overcome tough times before. “Times may be tough, but we are tougher. I can handle this too.”
- The lockdown is an opportunity for all of us assess what really matters to us and in a quiet and very natural way children to are coming to appreciate what their values and priorities are. Often that is something that takes years and years to form but our children have a head start after months of leading lives that are considerably restricted.
As parents and educators, we want our children to be fulfilled and purposeful in their lives. Often, we mistakenly wish our children to be happy all the time, but we know that life isn’t like that. Knowing that our children are better equipped to deal with life’s inevitable knocks and setbacks is something we should celebrate and be proud of. We can remind our children that they are resilient and that they will come through this having learnt many valuable lessons that will equip them for lives of meaning and purpose with a sprinkling of happiness too. As adults, we help to form the narrative. That is our duty and our privilege.