Can you remember a time, as an adolescent, when you bounced back from adversity? What did you do? Who assisted you?
Your answers to those questions will tell you something about your resiliency, a topic I think about a great deal when working with young people. It’s a topic I am currently focusing on as I co-author The Self-Learning Coaching Handbook: for Parents, Teachers and Mentors with Dr Jeannette Vos. The series of books will be available later in the year.
Resilience research clearly reveals some key points to all who work with youth, highlighted by resilience expert Bonnie Bernard.
These key points are:
- Most youth ‘make it’;
- All individuals have the power to transform and change;
- Teachers and schools have the power to transform lives;
- It’s how we do what we do that counts;
- Teachers beliefs in innate capacity start the change process.
I remember playing a sport’s match when I was about 17-years old and my team was being hammered. It looked like just a matter of time before we were defeated. I was Captaining the side and had to make some tactical decisions, after consulting with my deputy, which paid off, the team pulled together in an amazing way, the opposition hit the panic button and we ended up winning an exciting match. A memorable victory, one I still read about today when I look for some inner strength and motivation.
My one Coach had taught me how important it was to persevere and NEVER to quit. He believed in me and saw the potential that I was not yet seeing. That day taught me that one of my strengths is perseverance. On reflection, as a cancer survivor, that’s probably a quality most people who have overcome some challenging adversity will develop over time.
More recently I watched a school Basketball team being hammered during the first half. With the Coach’s support, guidance and tactical knowledge – the wise guide on the side – the boys pulled together in a wonderful way, came from behind and ended up winning the match. They had to adapt to conditions they were not used to and had clearly forgotten early in the game one of the fundamentals I have always built my own sport coaching on: work hard at the basic skills – go back to basics when the going gets tough.
As a coach this also means being able to move alongside adolescents, identify and name their strengths and develop their resiliency. This teaches them that, no matter what adversity they might face in life, they have the inner strengths to bounce back. Neal C. Lemery, writing in Mentoring Boys to Men, puts it like this:
“This journey inward is all about loving ourselves. It’s about knowing our inventory of experiences, of doubts, of conundrums, and of being sure of ourselves enough to know that each of us has the skills and the tools by which we can discover our inner strength, our inner power, and our inner peace.”
Quite some time ago I came across an article about Competent Kids produced by the Institute for Mental Health Initiatives. This article suggested that people and programs that foster resiliency help adolescents develop the 6 Senses of resiliency:
- A sense of worth: Resilient people feel loved and valued. They know that their contributions to family, school, work and community make a difference.
- A sense of hope and optimism: Resilient people have dreams and goals for the future. They believe that things will turn out okay. For many, religious beliefs fuel this faith in the future.
- A sense of competence: Resilient people know how to solve problems and communicate with others. They have concrete skills they can use to benefit themselves and others, which research shows is one of the most effective ways of helping oneself through times of stress.
- A sense of goodness: Resilient people are empathetic and caring and they act on their compassion. Their goodness prompts them to help others, which research shows is one of the most effective ways of helping oneself through times of stress.
- A sense of power: Resilient people believe that they have the capacity to change their circumstances. With this sense of efficacy, they can take positive action to overcome trauma or change chronically debilitating circumstances.
- A sense of community: Resilient people recognise that they do not have to fix all their problems alone. They are part of a family, school, workplace, neighbourhood or community of faith. These groups and communities can supply support, resources and the political will that is sometimes necessary to bring about change.
My adolescent experiences brought me into contact with people who fostered resiliency, probably without many of them even knowing they were doing so. I’m eternally grateful for the input of each and every one of them. They coached, taught and guided me how to work through adversity – NOT to avoid it – and emerge a stronger, more caring, more empathetic, compassionate and humble man – sadly, still far from perfect!
How about you? Have you given more thought to your answers to my earlier questions? Have you ever personally thanked your mentor or mentors for helping you become more resilient?
About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organizer, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can see his short daily mentoring tips on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook (where you are able to join a closed mentoring group) or contact him through his Mentoring Matters website Robin’s free Mentoring Matters daily podcasts (each podcast between 1.5 and 3 minutes), containing hundreds of tips for anyone working with young people, are available here.