This can be an incredibly busy time of year for families. We are back to work, or not, kids are heading back to school, there are stationery lists, school uniforms, sports gear, school donations and subject fees. Our young people are heading off to study or work, we are juggling the bills, trying to work out how the income will stretch for the next few months, and feeling a little under pressure. Or at least, if you weren’t before, you are now! We all feel snowed under at times and it can be a great opportunity to teach our young people how to deal with every day pressures.
Pressure is a normal part of life. We all experience it and we all need to learn to cope with it, overcome it, and be strengthened through it. Some would call this building resilience. Resilience is defined as the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape. A lot of people use the example of the elasticity in a rubber band, where the rubber band can be stretched but returns to its original shape and size. I’m not sure if that sufficiently defines resilience, as the rubber band eventually becomes weakened by all that stretching. Perhaps a more helpful analogy is to think of resilience as a muscle that is actually strengthened by applying pressure, like the resistance provided by weights at the gym.
Regular gym-goers see the pain of a workout as beneficial, making our muscles stronger and larger. The more we work out, the quicker our muscle memory develops and copes more efficiently with the pressure being applied, enabling faster recovery. In the same way, we can have a positive view of life’s pressures as growing our resilience; our ability to take pressure increases and our emotional ‘muscle memory’ enables us to stay strong during demanding times.
Here are three tips to help young people deal with pressure during this busy season: 1. Don’t catastrophise. In other words, when you talk about the pressures you are facing, talk about them as part of everyday life rather than as a ‘catastrophe’. It helps our young people to understand that while it’s true that significant difficulties sometimes come our way, dealing with work, study, uncertainty and paying bills is simply part of living. 2. Don’t solve their problems for them. Part of developing into an adult is learning how to solve problems. You can support them by asking questions to help them process the issue, not giving them the answers. Your role can also include helping your young person to determine whether the pressure they are feeling is normal (see Tip 1) or whether they even need to own it at all, for example, others’ relationship problems. 3. Let them try, and fail. Our role as caregivers is not to protect our young people from the pain of failure. It is only through failure that we can learn how to succeed, and to appreciate success. When we encourage our young people to persevere after failing, they grow determination, clarity of vision, a thicker skin, stronger problem-solving abilities and better decision-making skills – in other words, resilience.
I acknowledge that there are situations for all of us when we feel the pressure is greater than we can deal with, and at those times we need to reach out for the help we need for our own sakes and the sake of those we care for. I wish you all the best for the beginning of this New Year. See you at the gym!