Lessons from the school of hard knocks

We begin the month of March with this post by Rosemary Roscoe in which she talks about Resilience, that human being’s ability to overcome traumatic experiences. Being resilient opens the door to happiness.

“In 2009, an Ofsted happiness questionnaire made an interesting discovery –young people in a deprived suburb of Liverpool were happier than those from more affluent areas. Teenagers from the closely-knit community of Knowsley, where grown-up children tend to stay living close to their families or siblings, enjoyed a better quality of life than was typically found elsewhere in the country, apparently due to stronger friendships and family relationships.

It was argued that many in the area were happier because they had benefitted from being “resilient” in the face of social deprivation, and from experiencing more stressful moments and competitive or frightening situations. Resilience, many believe, is a central part of any child’s emotional wellbeing, and learning to ‘troubleshoot’ can do a power of good.

While everyone agrees that children should be protected from chronic stress and some in the economically deprived area were no doubt seriously unhappy due to family breakdown and high unemployment, short bursts of stress, especially physical play, are not just fun but even considered necessary for childhood development. Even feelings of acute stress that can be overcome within seconds or minutes, teach us how to bounce back from adversity.

Ellen Sandseter, a professor of early-childhood education, began observing and interviewing children on playgrounds in Norway. In 2011, she published her results in a paper entitled Children’s Risky Play From an Evolutionary Perspective: The Anti-Phobic Effects of Thrilling Experiences. “Children have a sensory need to taste danger and excitement; this doesn’t mean that what they do has to actually be dangerous, only that they feel they are taking a great risk. That scares them, but then they overcome the fear,” she concluded.

But before we all head off to climb Kilimanjaro, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not just the training that matters, the environment we’re raised in also makes a big difference. Those who are taught patience and self-control early on, while being allowed to take risks from the safety-net of a loving home, have the best defense against stress in later years, and are much more likely to be well-functioning, contented adults.”



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