A few notes
I am delighted to inform you that the timber floor of the sports centre is now being laid. This stage had to be briefly postponed as the concrete took longer to dry than anticipated. We are still on target to have the project completed by mid-March, within budget. This is great news on both counts.
From now on Mrs Jo Matherson, Deputy Principal, and I will be alternating writing articles for eNews though there may be times when we both submit an article.
On that note, however, Mrs Matherson will be writing articles for the next two publications of eNews as I will be on a trip to Asia to meet potential students, their parents and education agents. It adds a wonderful dimension to any school to have diversity in the enrolments and we are hoping to have a handful of international students enrolled at Glennie over the next few years. It will be an intense trip; visiting Jakarta, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Macau and a few cities in Taiwan. I will visit Jakarta and Vietnam independently and then join a number of Independent Schools’ representatives travelling with ISQ (Independent Schools Queensland) for the remainder of the trip. I will be away from School for a week and a half from 26 February to 8 March. During this time Mrs Matherson will be Acting Principal.
Do we push too hard for our children to be happy?
When I welcomed Junior Years parents to the Information Evening last week, I asked if their daughters had experienced failure in any form so far this year. I expressed the importance of this experience in the supportive environment of school. As parents, we want what is best for our children but, at times, in our well-meaning desire to ensure that they go through life unchallenged and facing no obstacles, we create the greatest obstacle of all - lack of resilience and courage to face challenges and also to face consequences. Sometimes we cocoon them to the extent that when they have to accept that life is not all rosy, as they inevitably will, they are ill-equipped to do so.
Too often I have come across people in the workplace or life in general who cannot accept the consequences of their actions, who are unable to take on challenges or constructive criticism which ultimately would be in their best interests. This intrigues me and I wonder if it stems back to a childhood where the pursuit of happiness and the idea that life should, at all costs, be blissful and challenge free was a focus.
At Glennie, we strive to ensure that our girls are equipped to face life’s challenges as we work with them to develop problem-solving and conflict resolution skills, build their confidence and resilience and look outside of themselves by engaging with others in the community who need their support. Helping others and having a personal sense of gratitude for what is good in our everyday lives hugely impact one’s own sense of wellbeing. This does not mean that we need to be happy all the time, but rather have a sense of who we are and how we can face adversity, which results in an overall sense of wellbeing.
It was with interest that I read an article by Jill Stark in The Sydney Morning Herald (Stark, 2019). I share snippets from the article below, but if you wish to read it in its entirety please go to https://amp.smh.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/pushing-happiness-as-the-holy-grail-is-creating-generation-anxiety-20190205-p50vwr.html
[Our children] live in an airbrushed world where social media filters out setbacks and encourages us to “follow your bliss” and “live your best life”. Yet these trite “inspo” slogans sit alongside statistics that portray an alarming truth: our young people are drowning in a sea of toxic stress.
ABS data shows we have the highest youth suicide rate in a decade. Waiting lists for help have blown out... In 2018, Mission Australia surveyed almost 30,000 15 to 19-year-olds and found that their number one concern is mental health, with 43 percent naming it their biggest worry – more than doubling in three years.
The frenetic 24-7 news cycle beamed onto phones that have become extensions of themselves warn young people of the constant threat of global terrorism, catastrophic natural disasters and irreversible climate change.
Then there’s the increasingly unstable job market, the fact that many of them will never know the security of owning their own home, and the unrelenting pressure to carefully curate their “personal brand” on social media.
Mission Australia's survey found young people are also struggling with how to cope with stress, school or study problems, and body image.
In the face of all these challenges, telling them to “do what makes you happy” or “follow your bliss” seems grossly inadequate, if not downright irresponsible, life advice. Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg believes children’s stress is often exacerbated by well-meaning parents who try to shield their children from adversity, in what he describes as the “wussification of a generation”.
“It’s snow plough parenting, where we think we can smooth out the path for them to the point that we don’t actually allow them to ever be sad, so by the time they hit real life they’re just totally unprepared for any challenges,” he says.
"If you mollycoddle these kids they never get to problem solve, or feel angry or frustrated or disappointed and they get this instant gratification that doesn’t allow them to learn how to manage their emotions.”
“What the Mission Australia survey tells us is that kids lack fundamental social and emotional competencies and that’s a huge problem for their mental health outcomes,” he says. “We need to put our energy into teaching them skills like anger management, problem-solving and conflict resolution.”
It’s natural to want to protect the young people we love, but as they face unprecedented challenges in a hectic modern world, we do them a disservice when we patronise them with platitudes that ignore the real stresses they face.
Instead of wanting children to be happy, maybe we should start equipping them to be human.
Stark, J. (2019). Pushing happiness as the holy grail is creating 'generation anxiety'. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: https://amp.smh.com.au [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].
Mrs Kim Cohen