As our Junior School families will be aware, across both campuses we have introduced a number of programs and strategies to encourage the development of resilience in our children. Resilience can be defined simply as the ability to “bounce back” from difficult situations.
The introduction of these programs reflects a more widely held concern regarding the ability of young people to cope with the changes and difficult situations that we will all face. Colleges in America have coined the phrase the "Teacup Generation" to describe the students from Generation Y who shatter as soon as something goes wrong. Separated from parents for the first time, these students are lost without constant parental support.
In addition, rates of depression and anxiety among young people have been steadily increasing. Today five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or an anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago.
One thing we know about anxiety and depression is that they correlate significantly with people's sense of control or lack of control over their own lives. People who believe that they are in charge of their own fate are less likely to become anxious or depressed than are those who believe that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control. The data indicate that young people's belief that they have control over their own destinies has declined sharply over the decades.
Our students and their teachers have been using a multi-coloured Catastrophe Scale as a tool to help them work out what is a minor worry and what is a serious issue. The Scale is designed to help children keep things in perspective and to deal with issues and events in an appropriate, positive and proactive way.
By enabling our children to accept and deal with the fact that they may not always win at games, they may not always receive awards, they may not constantly get their own way in activities or indeed they may not always be chosen for special tasks or roles, our staff are building the resilience to help them cope with life beyond school.
With encouragement and input of staff and the awareness and support of the parents, the children have been able to practise applying the Catastrophe Scale to a variety of scenarios. As a result, these students are now more able to categorise different types of concerns, determine the most helpful course of reaction and action, and identify who else (if anyone) needs to be brought on board to assist them in dealing with the issue at hand, thereby developing that important sense of control.