Flinders Wellbeing Compass
How to Negotiate the World with Your Children
Netflix recent "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is fabulous, but pretty dark. There's an almost gothic horror to it, but perhaps art is simply reflecting the state of our world at present, where fear shouts louder than compassion and money trumps character.
The Baudelaire children must navigate the world with care, staying true to the inner workings of heart and soul. It takes a special kind of courage and respect to appreciate life and to be steadfast in the midst of fear. As this short clip shows, it's one thing to live in a cave - withdrawing from a world gone crazy - it's quite another to face up to life's challenges and to put courage, respect, compassion and integrity into practise.
If we think about the stories that dominate our news feeds and direct our choices, what are the messages in these stories?
When the world seems chaotic and scary - what do we choose?
In a world bombarded by media stories that present a narrow ‘normal’ - what do we choose? When we have a normal that is tied to fear – what do we choose?
In an age of fake news, celebrity culture and filtered worlds, it is easy to choose the insta-celeb, the youtuber, our favourite social media or news feed, or friends who share our views. We can choose a power that marginalises people and supports our perception of safety. We can engage with technology instead of relating. The result is a normal that stays trapped in a narrow field of view: like Aunt Josephine choosing the cave.
How do we hear other stories and other views? How do we challenge ourselves to make choices that seem counter our narrow normal?
A Simple Truth
A simple truth is that our conversations have to be open and allow the exploration of feelings, ideas, values and difference. Rather than asking “How was your day?” - ask …
- • “What was the best part of your day?
- • “What was the most challenging hardest part?”
- • “What did you do today that you felt proud of?”
- • “What’s something kind someone did for you today?
- • “What’s something kind you did for someone else today?”
- • “What’s something you learnt today?”
Conversation, learning to take turns, listening to the responses of others, and reflecting rather than reacting on situations that have challenged us is an important skill for our children to participate in. Conversation done well demonstrates respect, in which the regular practice of gratitude is vital. We live in a prosperous and blessed part of the world. How often do we take that for granted? Our 'normal' is very different from the 'normal' of the majority of humanity.
Some interesting “other” perspectives to consider
A story from the Harvard Graduate School of Education talks about building strong school communities of caring. https://mcc.gse.harvard. This caused us to ponder - how do we identify when 'normal' is dysfunctional or unjust? How do we build communities based on respect and compassion, not power or fear? We know our rights, but how about our responsibilities?
The Making Caring Common Project has a number of great articles on building awesome school communities. We will be exploring these over the coming weeks. The article here looks at helping our children to look at the positives and teaching them to become people who are empathic, caring, and compassionate.
Domestic and Family Violence
May is the month the Queensland Government highlights the issues of domestic and family violence.
It is not always easy to identify when someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence. We can tell if someone is injured or physically harmed but certain forms of abuse are harder to discern. Violence and abuse are experienced in many different ways and can include; emotional, sexual, physical, religious, financial AND technology assisted abuse, . The negative implications on individuals, families and society is significant. Children are particularly vulnerable in situations of domestic and family violence.
If you would like to know more or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or abuse we have attached some links to support services and resource you might find helpful.
(click on an image or click on a link)
Further Links and Resources:
- YouTube - Domestic Violence support videos:
- Victorian government advertisements against domestic violence 2017
- Allison Baden-Clay’s parents speak about domestic violence:
- White Ribbon: Warning signs and what to do if you are in an abusive relationship
- Shared stories about domestic violence reported by ABC News
DV Connect 1800 811 811 KidsHelpline 1800 55 1800 Lifeline 13 11 14
Respect, Specter and Resilience...
Harvey Specter (from American series ‘Suits’) observes more than once in the course of the story: "life is this (and there's a gesture indicating a 'level'), I like this." Another gesture, a good foot higher.
(image of Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) from "Suits" created by Aaron Korsh and produced by Universal Cable Productions.)
My Grandfather was born 101 years ago, in the final year of the Great War. He was born into a family that one might (politely) term 'difficult': my great-grandfather sounds like he was something of a bully, while my great-grandmother was at times, remote. This was a sharp contrast to my Grandmother's home which was chaotic, but full of laughter and love. When he was 22, the Second World War began and he signed up and served faithfully in the Middle East and New Guinea until 1945, when he came home to raise a family with my Grandmother. When the Vietnam War rolled onto the horizon, they with most others of that generation had to face the real prospect that their sons would be called up to serve in yet another long and brutal conflict. My Grandparents lived for many years in a simple three bedroom house - with the dunny "out the back" for some decades – on a hill in Moorooka.
Michael Carr Gregg spoke recently at the Queensland Anglican Schools Conference I attended, and he referenced research that suggests Americans are now living the conundrum of extraordinary wealth and privilege, alongside growing levels of anxiety, obesity, addiction and over-medication. And we’re not far behind. So I got thinking about my Grandparents generation, and the last one hundred years of western history: two World Wars, a Global Depression, and significant changes in most avenues of life: social, emotional, economic, spiritual, medical, technological - and the rest. Our grandparents undoubtedly lived through more adversity, anxiety and sheer heartbreak than most of us will ever appreciate – yet, for all their issues, they lived productive lives, they fell in love, they raised their families and there was, as my Grandmother reflected many times in the course of her long and happy life, a lot of love and many happy memories.
"Life is this. I like this." Harvey puts words around a concept we understand very well. We don't aspire to be worse-off than the generations before us, we want better. The trouble being: "Is what we've got better?" Or is it missing the point in ways that are vital to our Wellbeing? My Grandfather fought for King and Country, and in the depths of New Guinean jungles wouldn't have quibbled about how he 'should' live. He was grateful that he'd lived another day. Between our grandparents reality and Harvey's aspirations, there's a world of difference and I think in that space is some stuff we need to talk about. The conversations are complex and include what makes us tick, what we value, how we belong or find meaning, our addictions and our fears. Our expectations of life have changed, but are those changes all good? I'm all for abundant life, but is that what we're living? What are we doing to ourselves and our children? What could we do very differently?
Further Reflection: on 'what makes us tick'... there's a link to an interesting article by Skye C Cleary and Massimo Pigliucci (for Aeon Magazine) on the subject of human nature and why it matters.
Great Reads for Children: These picture books below are great on friendship, respect, connection, human nature and gratitude - among many other ideas! All are in College Libraries.
The value we are focussing on this term is Respect.
This Anzac Day, as I reflect on RESPECT and link it to our commemorations, I’m amazed by the different ways Australians have shown their RESPECT for those who have gone before. Some marched, some had time with family, some recalled stories of their family’s past and explored the meaning of the sacrifices made.
I reflected on the power of our symbols of remembrance and my first trip to the Australian War Memorial with my young family and my recent trip back with the Year 6s. I wasn’t certain what to expect, its artefacts of war, loss and sacrifice. I was overawed by the space and mood. I found the stained-glass windows in the Hall of Memory, and the values they capture, made a powerful statement about Australia. They were a symbol of the vision our Elders, those impassioned leaders who have shaped our country.
For those who have not seen the Hall of Memory, each of the three panels represent a set of values:
The figures in the south window represent PERSONAL QUALITIES.
The figures of the west window represent SOCIAL QUALITIES.
The figures of the east window represent YOUTH AND ENTERPRISE.
I think the east windows are particularly relevant for our school and provide 5 ways to demonstrate our RESPECT for ourselves and others.
These five character strengths are as important today as they were when commissioned:
- The COOLNESS required in managing our emotions;
- The CONTROL to wait, work hard and achieve;
- The AUDACITY of youth and the vitality it brings to our world;
- The ENDURANCE necessary to live our lives;
- The wisdom required to make the right DECISION.
from Mr Meade
The Importance of Courage
Courage in the Primary School
Having the courage to deal with cyberbullying and other offensive online activities is an important value that as parents, we can teach our children. In days gone by, courage was required to do such things as; saying no when someone wanted us to do something we did not want to, to speak up when we saw others doing or saying things behind the backs of others and to tell a bully to stop what they were doing.
In today’s world, courage is as important as ever, but it's worth bearing in mind, that just as the online world has changed the way we relate to one another, the courage we need is taking on new dimensions also. As our College Captain Kristina noted in her comments about courage; it's easier to ignore an offensive post than to have the courage to report, or to use our words to heal, not to do further damage. So how do we parent, and teach courage, with this in mind?
Social media and a range of different online applications are increasingly the tools used by perpetrators of offensive, harassing, and often illegal, activities. Therefore the response to the behaviour will often involve these tools and how they are used. Snapchat and Instagram are currently applications commonly used in this way.
As parents, please consider having the courage:
- to say no to allowing your children to have, and use, the tools that this activity occurs on, before they are old and mature enough to understand all the implications and how to use them appropriately.
- to say no to allowing your children access to these tools if you also do not understand how they work - please don’t allow the decision to be driven by the claim that “everyone else has it”, because they don’t.
- To say no unless your child has all the security settings in place on all social media you agree they can use.
- to say yes to family discussions on cybersafety, and your family's values - like courage, integrity and kindness. Discussing values helps to build resilience and perspective. Bullies and predators bank on these conversations never happening.
- To agree to rules about appropriate usage of social media and other platforms in your home.
- to say yes to cultivating a positive offline life as a family.
There is much information and support available that enables us to use these tools safely, but should you be worried about your child’s activities, information can be accessed through the resources provided on this site. I would also recommend that you look at the following videos produced by Rocket TV. They provide wonderful conversation starters that you can use to help communication about these matters with your children.
Courage, Mental Health and the Universe of Online Gaming
This week we here at Wellbeing Compass thought it would be useful to post some of the videos from Oceanic Pro League of League of Legends and Headspace. Headspace, an organisation that does fantastic work in supporting young people, has been sponsoring a round of the League of Legends (LOL) Oceanic Pro League (OPL). Headspace and OPL teamed up, not only to promote their round of the game but also to discuss various tips that help people maintain a healthy headspace, deal with the changes and challenges life throws at them, and help then live their life in a positive and meaningful way.
For those more aged folk among us – the OPL is an organisation of online gamers, so this is a world really well-known to our children and young people. There’s been lots of discussion about the more negative impacts of technology and online gaming on mental health, but the reality is, it is a way our young people connect, if not to play, then to watch other famous gamers play on YouTube channels dedicated to the sport.
The Herald Sun reported this week that “eSports is shaping up to be a major player in the world’s sporting landscape”. It is $1.5billion global industry that has a great deal of traction with young people. It’s not uncommon for sporting stars and celebrities to be talking about mental health and discussing the various strategies they have used to help them manage their lives. It is really refreshing to see a group of new ‘celebrities’ from the eSports world promoting mental health.
Our Children's Courage
Children learn courage from what they observe, experience and from the messages they receive from family, friends, school, media and influential people. Many children are brave every day managing difficult situations as best as they can. Adults, particularly parents, can help children use courage as a wise resource by encouraging them to speak out about their worries and troubles, provide them a safe base from which to negotiate their world and give them support for their endeavours. Children's' courage is linked to their ability to bounce back from adversity and disappointment.
Two books in our library that highlight some dilemmas of courage that are worth reading together and worth a conversation are available for borrowing.
"Courage for beginners" By Karen Harrington
Twelve-year-old Mysti Murphy of Texas wishes she were a character in a book. If her life were fiction, she'd know how to solve her problems at school; take care of her family when her dad has to spend time in the hospital; and deal with her family's secret: that her mother is agoraphobic and never leaves the house.
"How brave is that?" By Anne Fine
Tom's a brave lad. All he's ever wanted to do is work hard at school, pass his exams, and join the army. He never gives up, even when terrible triplets turn life upside down at home. But when disaster strikes on exam day Tom has to come up with a plan. Fast. And it will be the bravest thing he's ever done!
Courage in Action
We have many books, two featured here, in both our libraries that mention courage---bravery, striving against the odds and making a stand. These, as well as others, may be interesting and inspiring reads. Books are a wonderful way to share stories about the importance of courage for young and old and to then talk about personal ideas, hopes and experiences of courage.
Not just Black and White: a conversation between a mother and daughter - Lesley and Tammy Williams
Two remarkable women tell an inspirational story about the power of family and pursuing your dreams.
Lesley Williams is forced to leave Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement and her family at a young age to work as a domestic servant. Apart from a bit of pocket money, Lesley never sees her wages – they are kept 'safe' for her and for countless others just like her. She is taught not to question her life, until desperation makes her start to wonder, where is all that money she earned? So begins a nine-year journey for answers which will test every ounce of her resolve.
Life without limits: how to live a ridiculously good life - Nick Vujicic
Life Without Limits is an inspiring book by an extraordinary man. Born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic overcame his disability to live not just independently but a rich, fulfilling life, becoming a model for anyone see
Success, Failure and the Wilderness in between
Image courtesy of Michael Leunig
The Winter Olympics and Lent are upon us and our thoughts turn to the unexpected ways people respond to life. The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics presents athletes full of enthusiasm and passion. For the vast majority a gold medal is not on the cards; being there is their success, or a top 10 finish, or participating in a major final. In a parenting blog from Michael Gross, which we mentioned in the recent Flinders Newsletter, he sees success within the context of managing yourself and your interactions with others. In a series of eleven TED talks the presenters provide us with a range of definitions of success and the stories of people who have overcome adversity or failure. Two that caught our attention include:
Elizabeth Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure.
John Wooden defines success as the peace of mind gained through the self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best.
We conclude this post with an amazing TED talk from Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix speaks with great beauty of the ways in which peace and hope can rise from the ashes of loss and adversity.
As we contemplate courage, we hope these talks provide some inspiration for your upcoming year and your journey at Flinders.
Flinders Wellbeing Team
More Links and Resources
The Flinders Wellbeing Compass is a resource developed for parents, staff and students.
It is updated regularly with current topics, information links and resources.