Resilience To Face Each New Day

While out for a morning walk, my friend and college classmate — Mithra Shenoy — took a picture of this tree. She posted it on our friend’s group with 3 strong messages:

  • Strive to move forward
  • Live life to the fullest
  • Fulfil your life’s purpose

More on this as I develop the theme

I see a relationship between the tree and the termites, and us humans and the corona virus.

Termites are small soft bodied insects that live in large colonies with several different castes. Many kinds of termites feed on wood and are highly destructive of trees and timber. And that is exactly what these termites have done to the tree — they have eaten away, at its core, leaving the tree weak and vulnerable to the vagaries of nature and man.

What has the corona virus done to humans? This virus has created havoc and has spared no country and therefore has been termed a pandemic.

The effects and consequences have been devastating — we really don’t see it if we are sitting in our ivory towers. I am going to touch on just one consequence — the impact of the pandemic on our children’s mental health, behaviour and education.

I received a phone call from a mother for help for her 12–13 year old daughter.

The symptoms as described:

She does not want to go out to play. Stays in her room. Is very weepy. She is present and yet not present for online classes.

Is playing some online game (I didn’t get the name as it was very unfamiliar to me) with people she does not know. With all of this going on, the mother decided to read the daughter’s journal to know what was happening to her little girl.

The mother was shocked — at the foul language used — She said, ‘I checked to see if it was my daughter’s handwriting’. She also read about how she wanted to die — and so on.

This is just one example. I am sure it is probably happening in some degree in many a home.

As to whether these children are really getting educated — time will tell. I believe they have lost a year or more. And when they get back to school — there will be children who have forgotten how to relate to other children, to empathise or perhaps even communicate. I know I am painting a dark picture — but this is a wakeup call.

Let’s go back to the tree. This tree with hardly any trunk left has not lost the will to live — it is bringing forth healthy branches and leaves. Reminds me of the poem, ‘On Killing a Tree’ by Gieve Patel.

The one word that strikes me the most when I look at the tree is Resilience.

Despite having no trunk worth its name, despite growing on the roadside, despite having to face traffic pollution, this tree is living and it continues to live under these very difficult situations.

And the trait that helps it to face life is Resilience with some support and help from perseverance and determination.

Dear Parents and Teachers,

My theme for today is Resilience.

But before that — Do you think children have fears and especially pandemic related fears?

What is the source of these fears?

There could be so many, but to enumerate a few — the virus itself with its consequences — constantly hearing words like wash / sanitize your hands, double mask, etc. — stress and pressure of staying indoors, pressures to keep tab of online classes, listen attentively, do home-work, keep the room tidy, etc. And there are pressures coming from within her / him.

The crucial question is how do they respond to these stressors and pressures?

Looking around, we find that there are children who cope very well and then there are those who do not.

Like the tree, the trait, the all-important trait is Resilience

Who is a resilient person?

(The following is not a checklist)

Also, it would be good to keep in mind, that I could be resilient in one area of my life and have a total lack of coping mechanism in another. A person I know is effective and in control of herself when it comes to her job, but has not been able to cope emotionally, with her daughter having to leave the home. She is lost within herself and her own feelings.

Through my mentoring/counselling sessions with students, parents and general interactions with people, I have found a resilient person to be generally:

  • Self-aware, they know their strengths and weaknesses and put in energy to focus on and make their strengths stronger.
  • Confident about their abilities, problem solving skills and decision making processes.
  • Have the ability to handle difficult situations effectively as they are observant and aware of their surroundings and behaviour of people around them and their own reactions to them.

(I have been quite amazed with children’s and teenager’s ability at this)

  • Happy to connect with people — especially family and friends. These ties are the bedrock of their security leading to strong values and beliefs, preventing them from going down any destructive paths.
  • Have a purpose in life (as Mithra mentioned) something to strive for, something to be passionate about, for one’s own growth and to contribute to make the world a better place.

And for this to happen, parents first and teachers too will have to be careful about a few things:

  • I have said this before and emphasise it again — Helicopter parenting. Know what is happening in the life of your child at the same time don’t constantly hover around. Let them fall and learn to get up with your helping hand
  • Choose your battles — Here, I think your values and beliefs will be a guiding light. Don’t sweat the small stuff
  • I read an article a couple of years ago in the Time magazine by Rachel Summons which was quite contrary to what we believe and say to our children. She says ‘Tell kids the truth. Hard work doesn’t always pay off.’ The belief she says is, ‘I should be able to control the outcomes of life by virtue of hard work.’ But what would happen if after all that hard work, they fall short or even fail? She says, ‘the point is not to give our kids a pass on working hard. Fantasising that they can control everything is not resilience. We should be wise to remind our kids that life has a way of punching us when we least expect it. It is often the people who learn to say ‘things happen’ who get up the fastest.’
  • It would also be good to have a balance in life, catering to the body, mind, heart and soul.
  • However busy, parents have to keep the lines of communication open. Children should feel able to reach out and ask for help — non-judgemental help.
  • The final lesson has to come from the tree — reach out and give joyfully.

I would like to close with a verse from the poem, ‘On Killing a Tree’ — which I think offers hope.

So hack and chop

But this alone won’t do it.

Not so much pain will do it.

The bleeding bark will heal

And from close to the ground

Will rise curled green twigs.

Miniature boughs

Which if unchecked will expand again

To former size.’

September — 5th is around the corner, Teachers’ Day.

My prayer — May you have the Resilience to face each new day.