Positive Emotion is a priority at Yanchep Secondary College. The founder of the Resilience Project, Martin Heppell defines it as ‘education for both traditional skills and for wellbeing’. We made Positive Emotion an embedded school priority area because we want to ensure our teenagers are well prepared to live a full and happy life and that they are skilled to face difficulties when they arise. We now move towards more whole school strategies for social and emotional wellbeing.
One of the wonderful gifts of this portfolio is that everyone wins. Positive Emotion in schools grew from a strong scientific base demonstrated to work successfully in the Defence Forces, Health and Wellbeing Industries and Education. Its aim is to develop proactive mental health within both life and work contexts, for all members of the school community.
At YSC all staff are trained to teach Wellbeing, Thriving and Optimal Functioning to every student. We have worked diligently to develop an educational environment in the college that enables every learner to engage in established curriculum explicitly teaching Resilience, Character Strengths; and a variety of specific skills to develop wellbeing and engagement in our students.
Every student at YSC benefits from our whole school implementation of the GEM program which includes addressing the following:
- Gratitude: for the positive experiences and people in our lives.
- Empathy: for others and the pursuit of kindness in our interactions.
- Mindfulness: building a consistent mindful practice to improve motivation and concentration.
To view the specific content framework for how we embed GEM in each year level, please visit our website. We also enjoy a strong whole school approach to recognising character strengths, practising mindfulness and growth mindsets.
Students receive their GEM training through explicit teaching in GEM classes at the beginning of every day, embedding of GEM through every learning area to reinforce GEM knowledge and skills, a character strengths based, solution focused Student Services team. We also facilitate a number of opportunities for parents to implement GEM principles in the home, through our close association with parenting expert Maggie Dent.
Through our website and parent information evenings, we will continue to engage parents in working with us on the program. Research demonstrates that if parents work with schools on GEM their children will flourish and everyone in the home will benefit.
Ways for families to work together to develop optimal happiness, resilience and positive mindsets:
- Look up “The Resilience Project” on Facebook and explore the various tools available.
- The whole family can take the free Values In Action Character survey. You can complete the free survey using the link: http://www.viacharacter.org
- Use as many opportunities as you can to discuss your child’s character strengths and how they can easily access them to build resilience, solve problems and thrive on a daily level.
- Construct a family tree and identify character strengths from the survey.
- When your child comes home from school ask them what went well today or share your own ‘what went well’ experiences.
- Encourage your child to keep a gratitude journal or make time in the day as a family to express what you feel grateful for every day.
- Attend the many Positive Education workshops offered after school hours for families to work together on building positive emotions.
- Identify character strengths in characters from movies you watch as a family or favourite books.
- Set short term, medium and long term realistic goals for students and for all members of the family.
- Focus on the idea of working hard, not being ‘good at’ something or ‘bad at’ something and praise your child on their skills and effort not their looks.
- Spend time together on a family activity.
- Provide clear boundaries regarding access to social media and screen time. Emphasise clear and genuine face to face communication at home.
- Encourage students to be part of the wider community—join a sports team, club or activity or get part time work or better still be a volunteer in our important In-School Community Service program.
- Encourage your child to criticise less and empathise more.
- Encourage meditation in your family. The neuro science on brains shows that meditation actively improves your brain, de-stresses your brain and is vital for health.
- Learn new things, this will fire up brain neurons.
By involving your family in these sorts of activities, you can increase their knowledge and skills to increase well-being.
RESILIENCE: HELPING YOUR TEENAGER ‘BOUNCE BACK’
When young people are resilient, they cope better with difficult situations. They ‘bounce back’ when things go wrong. Young people need resilience to navigate life’s ups and downs, so building resilience is an important part of adolescence.
Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ after something negative—like a tough situation or difficult time—and then get back to feeling just about as good as you felt before. It’s also the ability to adapt to difficult circumstances that you can’t change, and keep on thriving. When you’re resilient, you can learn from difficult or challenging situations and get stronger.
Your child needs the personal skills and attitudes to help them bounce back from everyday challenges such as making mistakes, falling out with friends, moving to a new school or losing an important sporting match. Your child might also face more serious challenges such as family breakdown, adapting to a step-family, the illness or death of a family member or bullying.
How resilient you act and feel can go up and down at different times. You might be better at bouncing back from some challenges and not others. Some young people face more challenges than others because of learning difficulties or disabilities, or because they have more anxious personalities. The more challenges young people have, the harder it is for them to be resilient. All young people can build the personal skills for resilience. As a parent, you have a big role to play in helping.
Resilience is more than just coping. When you’re resilient, you’re more prepared to seek new experiences and opportunities and take reasonable risks to achieve your goals.Risk-taking might mean some setbacks, but it also creates opportunities for success and greater self-confidence.
Resilience for young people is built on a foundation of strong positive relationships with parents. Children can also gain strength from other caring adults that they identify with, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles or teachers who might act as mentors. Friends and classmates can also be a great source of support if your child’s going through a difficult time.
You can help your child build the ability to bounce back from difficult situations by giving them the opportunity to learn and practise important values and skills such as:
- Self-respect and other personal values and attitudes
- Social skills
- Helpful and optimistic thinking
- Skills for getting things done
Remember you are good enough
Everyone is different
Stop comparing yourself
Learn something new daily
Involve yourself in what you love doing
Enjoy things that make you happy
Not everyone can be 1st, 2nd or 3rd
Care about yourself and others
Expect that some days won’t be great
Self-respect is a great building block for resilience. Self-respect grows out of setting standards for behaviour. If your child has self-respect, they believe that they matter and should be treated respectfully by others. They are also more likely to protect themselves by avoiding risky behaviour and situations. A strong sense of self-respect will also help your child be less vulnerable to bullies and bullying.
Empathy, respect for others, kindness, fairness, honesty and cooperation are also linked to resilience. This includes showing care and concern to people who need support, accepting people’s differences, being friendly and not mistreating or bullying others. If your child shows these attitudes and behaviour towards others, they are more likely to get a positive response in return. This helps them feel good about themselves.
Social skills are an important building block for resilience. They include the skills needed to make and keep friends, sort out conflict, and cooperate and work well in a team or group.
When your child has good relationships at school and gets involved in community groups, sports teams or arts activities, they have more chances to develop connections and a sense of belonging.
Resilience is about being realistic, thinking rationally, looking on the bright side, finding the positives, expecting things to go well and moving forward, even when things are bad.
When your child is upset, you can help them keep things in perspective by focusing on facts and reality. For example, you could try gently asking, ‘Does this really matter as much as you think it does? Is it worth getting upset about this? How would you feel if you did not react to this? On a scale from 1-10, how bad is this really?’ A sense of humour can also help you both keep things in perspective and stay calm.
If your child is being hard on themselves (for example, ‘I’m scared of public speaking’), you could suggest more helpful self-talk instead. For example, your child could try saying, ‘Public speaking isn’t my favourite thing, but I’ll be able to cope’ or ‘I can use my character strengths to help me here’.
Your child is more likely to feel positive if they can see that difficult times are a part of life, that they will pass, and that things will get better. You might be able to help your child with this. You can also help your child keep things in perspective and understand that a bad thing in one part of their life—say, a poor exam result—doesn’t have to flow over into all parts of their lives.
Talking and working together to find solutions can help your child be more resilient. Having a problem-solving method is one way for your child to feel they have the power to get through bad times.
No matter how upbeat your child is, there will be times when they feel anxious, scared or angry. If they are resilient, they will be able to ride out these adolescent ups and downs. Ways to turn low moods into better ones include:
- Doing things you love and enjoy
- Spending time with friends
- Helping someone else
- Talking with a support person
- Exploring activities that help you relax
- Going for a vigorous walk or doing some kind of physical activity
- Going over some good memories by looking through photographs
- Watching a funny TV show or DVD, or reading something funny