STRONGER TOGETHER: Resilience—The Forgotten Playground Skill

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Last updated: 18/03/2024

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the paradox of modern parenting, where children are physically protected but lack mental resilience, advocating for a recalibration of parenting approaches to foster strength and adaptability in the face of adversity.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

As the sun sets over the horizon, casting a warm glow on the playground, parents gather to watch their children play. The laughter, scraped knees, and impromptu games of tag evoke a sense of nostalgia—a reminder of our own carefree days. But in this idyllic scene, a paradox unfolds—one that demands our attention and reflection.

In our quest to safeguard the well-being of the younger generation, we’ve become adept at cocooning them in layers of protection. Helmets for biking, knee pads for skating, and sanitised play areas—all designed to shield our precious ones from harm. And yet, as we pad their physical world, we inadvertently strip away the very fabric of resilience—the ability to bounce back, adapt, and learn from life’s inevitable tumbles.

Remember the days when we climbed trees, scraped our elbows, and built forts from cardboard boxes? Those minor bruises were badges of honour, tokens of our adventurous spirit. We learned to assess risks, gauge our limits, and discover our inner strength. Today, the playgrounds are softer, the rules stricter, and the safety nets more robust. But what are we sacrificing in the process?

Simultaneously, our children tread a precarious tightrope in the digital realm. The virtual world, with its infinite possibilities, offers both wonder and peril. Social media platforms beckon with promises of connection, validation, and carefully curated identities. Yet, beneath the glossy filters lie hidden pitfalls—comparison, cyberbullying, and the relentless pursuit of perfection.

Our paradox lies here: We cocoon our children in bubble wrap, shielding them from scraped knees, but we expose their minds to unfiltered content. As parents and educators, we must recalibrate our approach. Resilience isn’t built by padding the world—it’s forged in the fires of adversity. It’s the scraped knee that teaches us balance, the failed test that fuels determination, and the broken heart that fosters empathy.

And then there’s the phenomenon of the “Generation Sicknote.” These are the young adults who, despite their digital prowess, struggle to cope with life and its curveballs, missing work due to mental ill health. They’ve mastered the art of crafting witty tweets and Instagram stories, yet when faced with adversity, they crumble. Why? Because resilience isn’t a hashtag.

It’s a poignant reminder of the consequences of neglecting resilience in favour of comfort and convenience. We must resist the temptation to shield our children from every bump and bruise, both physical and emotional. Instead, let’s embrace discomfort as a catalyst for growth. Setbacks are not roadblocks; they are opportunities for learning and self-discovery.

In the end, resilience is not a trait that can be bestowed upon our children; it must be cultivated through experience and practice. So let us step back from our instinct to overprotect and instead, empower our children to face life’s challenges with courage and resilience. After all, it’s in the bumps and bruises of life that true strength is forged, and it’s in the face of adversity that character is revealed.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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