Education and Health Communique #7

National First Vice-President and Chairperson of Education and Health Fran Lucas, November 7, 2017

 

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At the recent national executive meeting, a decision was made that the focus for the next 12 months shall be mental health. Euthanasia and assisted suicide will remain active with support for “12 Hours of Prayer for Palliative Care” to continue. Invite councils to educate members about the seriousness of mental health, which continues to grow in numbers affecting all ages, by engaging guest speakers at meetings and to find and share local community resources. This communique speaks about child and teen mental health and gives valuable insights into the challenges faced and how to work towards reducing this health issue. Resources to share will be provided as available, with each provincial council invited to bring forward specific needs.

Promoting Mental Health Through the Lifespan: Children and Teens

Resilience, meaning the ability to recover quickly from difficulties, toughness (en.oxforddictionaries.com), is one of the key words used in the promotion of mental health today. Believed by some to be a quality we are born with, it is in reality a learned skill set that requires nurturing throughout life. Where some people may appear to be more naturally resilient than others, they usually have learned coping mechanisms from their parents and/or significant others. Challenges will always occur and change as people reach each life milestone, however, by equipping them with the proper tools, children and teens may learn to navigate the challenges they will face throughout their lifespan.

An excellent resource by Pediatrician Kenneth R. Ginsburg is Building Resilience in Children and Teens: giving Kids Roots and Wings, where he cites the “7 C’s Model of Resilience” that can help children and teens develop resilience. They include:

Confidence – “the solid belief in one’s own abilities. True confidence gives children hope. Children, who experience their own competence (the second C) and know that they are safe and protected, develop a deep-seated security that promotes confidence to face and cope with challenges. By supporting children in finding their own areas of competence and building on them, parents prepare kids to gain enough confidence to try new things and trust their abilities to make sound choices.”

Competence – “The ability or know-how to handle situations effectively. “I have the skills.” It is acquired through experience, under the guidance of parents who allow their children to practice making choices and facing difficult situations. In other words, the kids aren’t left totally on their own, but neither is the parent doing everything for them, bailing them out of challenging situations.”

Connection –“Close family ties, friends at school and in community give a child a solid sense of security that produces strong values and prevents them from seeking destructive alternatives. Family is the central force in any child’s life, but connections to civic, educational, religious and athletic groups can increase a young person’s sense of belonging to a wider world and being safe within it. “Someone has my back.”

Character – “Children need a fundamental sense of right and wrong to ensure that they are prepared to make wise choices, contribute to the world and become stable adults. Children with character enjoy a strong sense of self-worth and confidence. They are comfortable sticking to their values and demonstrating a caring attitude toward others. Grit and tenacity are words to describe this child.”

Contribution – “When children realize that the world is a better place because they are in it, they understand the importance of personal contribution. They develop a sense of purpose that can motivate them. They will take actions and make choices that improve the world as well as enhancing their own competence, character and sense of connection. Teens who contribute to their communities will be surrounded by reinforcing “thank-you’s” instead of low expectations and/or condemnation that so many teens endure. “Serving feels good” and “people care what I say.”

Coping – “Children who learn to cope effectively with stress are better prepared to overcome life’s challenges. The best protection against unsafe, worrisome behaviours may be a wide repertoire of positive, adaptive strategies like relaxation, sports, and service to others.”

Control – “When children realize that they can control the outcome of their decisions and actions, they are more like to know that they have the ability to do what it takes to bounce back. On the other hand, if parents make all the decisions, children are denied the opportunities to learn control. Discipline is used to teach, not to punish, harm or control. Discipline means to honour our child’s growing independence with safety and responsibility.”

Fran Lucas
National First Vice-President and Chairperson of Education and Health