In a rapidly changing world, some would argue the most valuable trait we can develop in our children, is the ability to adapt.
The Center for Parenting Education defines adaptability as how readily children adjust to environmental changes following their initial response to a situation.
As a parent or guardian, you have probably had plenty of opportunities to identify how adaptable your daughter can be. When confronted with an unfamiliar or uncomfortable situation, does she respond anxiously or angrily but then move on? Does she cry easily and take significant time to recover? Is she flexible and confident in her approach moving forward? Does she require significant reassurance to know that everything is going to be okay? You have probably witnessed a range of these responses dependent on the situation.
A key factor in developing adaptability is for our daughters to become aware of their own thinking. It is widely understood that the mind and the body are inextricably linked and that if we can understand how we think, then we can manage how we feel.
The founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Albert Ellis constructed a simple ABC model to demonstrate this.
Activating = actual event/reality, interpretations of event
Beliefs = evaluations – rational/irrational
Consequences = emotions, behaviour, physical sensations
Simply, the mind (B) is responsible for activating the responses (C), based on beliefs that that may be helpful and reality-based or emotive and unhelpful. (Smith G, 2019)
Often we cannot change the reality (situation), it just is. And it is quite understandable that their initial reaction might be one of distress, fear or sadness.
However, as parents and educators we can support them to develop the habits of being able to identify their unhelpful thoughts and feelings, challenge the rationality of those feelings, and replace them with healthier, more constructive beliefs.
Particularly around assessment time, I have noticed how unhelpful thoughts and beliefs create distress which, in turn, leads to unhealthy and unproductive behaviours that interfere with personal and academic goals. If our girls can recognise that negative thoughts and actions can be replaced with more positive and productive thinking and behaviour, it can have a significant impact on their achievement of personal and academic goals.
As part of our Care program at RGGS, students have developed a Ready to Learn plan in which they identified situations that may cause them stress/distress as well as articulating strategies that help them return to a state of calm. Taking this one step further, we can further support our girls by gently challenging their irrational thoughts and prompting them with questions such as, “Are you expecting yourself or others to be perfect”, “Could other people have a different view about this?”, “Is this an assumption or is it a fact?”, ‘”What is the likelihood of that occurring?”, “Could you be jumping to conclusions?”, “Do you think that (action) would be helpful or harmful?”, “Are there any positives to this situation?” etc.
Life is always going to throw us ‘curve balls’ and our girls will find themselves in situations that are unfamiliar and/or uncomfortable in later life. By teaching them to challenge negative thinking patterns, we are providing them with skills necessary to successfully navigate personal and professional challenges and achieve life goals, whatever they may be.
Acting Deputy Principal - Students