Building optimism and resilience in young people is considered by many, key in addressing mental health issues across our society today. With the rate of students suffering anxiety and depression a growing concern, schools are uniquely placed to teach healthy student attitudes and self-awareness.
Knox Grammar School
Countless studies have been conducted on optimism and resilience and most of them support the same conclusions: a positive outlook can have a significant impact on mental and physical health, particularly in children and adolescents.
Clearly, optimism is a trait that should become more common, judging by Winston Churchill’s famous quote that ‘a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ Fortunately, optimism and resilience are attributes that can be learned. Leading authorities in the field of positive psychology, define optimism as reacting to problems with a sense of confidence and high personal ability.
While the challenges for our children seem to be both numerous and at times confronting, it is my belief that young people should look to the future with optimism. Our students are not being sent off into a dislocated and ruinous world, full of chaos and disaster. The world is not broken; it is easy to be scared by the horrors of the media, to conclude that everything is terrible and that the only attitude that makes sense is one of profound pessimism.
It is imperative to encourage children to believe in the power of optimism and to embrace challenges as a way of building their resilience. They need to recognise the reality of the uncertainty and challenges of our world. Learning to be resilient involves failure, feedback and a fair dollop of optimism. The ability to bounce back and maintain buoyancy in the sea of life is a skill that can and should be explicitly taught in homes and schools.
By teaching children to challenge negative self-talk and replacing pessimistic thoughts with more positive ones, they can learn how to become more optimistic. In other words, learned optimism involves young people developing the ability to engage in realistic thinking. To recognise that most problems are time-sensitive, we encourage our students to foster a sense of control in a given situation.
The creation of the Research Institute for Children and Adolescents (RICA) reflects our ongoing commitment to improve the lives of young people. The School’s vision is for the Institute’s innovative research to lead to changes in policy and practice, thus enhancing the wellbeing of young people.
Currently, the Institute is collaborating with the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Wellbeing Science, leading a systematic review of academic literature in the field of evidence-based wellbeing practices in education.
This research is complemented by a systematic review and meta-analysis by our Science of Welling (SOW) Team investigating the practical evidence-based interventions that underpin our Total Fitness model of holistic wellbeing.
There is no doubt that developing a more hopeful pattern of thinking can only help our young people more successfully navigate the inevitable failures and mistakes that appear throughout life.
With the work of RICA and our SOW Teams, Knox is committed to building in our students the knowledge and skills needed to overcome the everyday stressors that are associated with children and adolescence. Our commitment is to design and implement evidencebased programs to develop resilience and positive mental health, so just like our recent graduates, when our young men walk out of the gates, they can work through challenges by learning to face them in a more deliberate and positive manner.
This is a challenge worth pursuing and investing in.
SCIENCE OF WELLBEING (SOW) TEAM SOW aims to enhance the wellbeing of each member of our School community. Bringing together a team of Clinical Psychologists, PhD researchers and experienced educators, SOW works to promote the practical application of evidence-based wellbeing science initiatives. Visit https://sow.knox.nsw.edu.au for research-based parenting articles and more information.
RESEARCH INSTITUTE FOR CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS (RICA) The core purpose of the Institute is to improve the academic and personal wellbeing of young people through research and application. For more information visit: https://www.rica.nsw.edu.au.
Mr Scott James, Headmaster
This article was first published in the December 2022 edition of The Thistle.
29 May 2023
The Knox Careers Night will be held tomorrow, Tuesday 30 May 2023, commencing at 5.30pm, and is open to Years 10 to 12 students and their parents.
25 May 2023
In celebration of the numerous cultures that comprise our boarding community, last weekend families were invited to our annual Back to Country event.
22 May 2023
Knox Gala Day 2023 was one to remember, with a big Rugby 1st XV win capping off a fantastic sunny day full of delicious food, excellent music and exciting live sport.
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