I recently heard Hugh Mackay being interviewed about his new book, “Belonging”, in which he explored the need humans have to be in community. He argued that the current emphasis on the individual is creating a greater sense of isolation. He also highlighted that living in community can be challenging because it requires compromises which will inevitably limit individual freedom.
There will be times when an individual’s expectations and the community’s need for cohesion and inclusion will clash. Helping children and young people to navigate their way in community comes by a focus on the positive. Instead of allowing children to download only their negative experiences, use questions that elicit a positive response. eg What went well today? What did you enjoy?
Children and young people are very good at knowing that the most effective way to engage a busy parent’s attention is by expressing sadness rather than happiness. Parents will react because it is natural to want to shield the child or young person from hurt. It is a challenge for a parent to be able to re-frame negative experiences into an opportunity for growth. However, by doing this the child or young person will build deeper emotional reserves.
The ability to develop emotional reserves to live in community will spill over into learning. Guy Claxton in “Building Learning Power” writes; “Learning is inevitably difficult and by strengthening a child’s ability to sit with the uncomfortable they will be able to rise above challenges”.
I am reminded of the Biblical teaching from Romans Chapter 5 which is about how suffering or adversity produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, character produces hope and how hope allows us not to be disappointed. This is a description of having emotional reserves. However, it is more than that because it gives a hope and a confidence for facing whatever the future might hold.
As we come to this Easter time, my prayer for the community is that our young people might be so supported to grow through challenges that they develop to become men and women of character who have a hope firmly placed in the life and resurrection of Jesus which will indeed not disappoint them.