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Recognition – that’s what’s important!

When I look, I am seen, so I exist. 
I can now afford to look and see. 
I now look creatively, and what I apperceive I also perceive. 
In fact, I take care not to see what is not there to be seen 
(unless I am tired). (Winnicott 1971b, p.114)

Following the framework outlined by Dr. Arne Rubenstein of The Rite of Passage Institute when he spoke to our school community at the beginning of the term, I want to share with you two perspectives of Recognition - that’s what’s important to the young people in our lives,

Recognising CHARACTER STRENGTHS in action 

Recognition - Noun

1. Identification of someone or something from previous encounters of knowledge.

Researchers recognise that character strengths in action can enhance protective factors in the face of adverse life events such as covid-19. Recognising the use of powers is also correlated with resilience, self-worth, and wellbeing. This approach has become part of the contextual wellbeing responses developed in our WEL (Wellbeing, Engagement & Learning) programs and curriculum at Woodleigh.

For the uninitiated, positive psychologists define “Character Strengths” as those aspects of our personality that help us determine what is best in us and benefit ourselves and others. They lead us to positive emotions and relationships, greater vitality, and engagement in meaningful life activities. Leading the work, Dr. Martin Seligman has identified 24 strengths: the basic building blocks defining our individuality. We each possess all 24 of these strengths in different degrees and combinations. As evidenced by research, when we identify and flex our muscles in response to challenging life circumstances, we flourish.

Furthermore, when we are conscious of our strengths, we are more likely to recognise strengths in others, leading to more harmonious relationships, which are especially useful during challenging times such as remote learning, lockdown, and transitioning to whatever is a “new covid normal.”

In the words of another write, researcher, and author in the positive psychology space, Dr. Ryan Niemiec, 

“Character strengths serve as those crucial influencers that help us embrace the positive, endure the mundane, and navigate and manage the struggles.”

Five ways in which character strengths have played a vital role in enhancing wellbeing in the context of COVID-19 

  1. Helped find meaning and keep perspective of what’s essential in the larger scheme of things. 
  2. Helped to personalise and reframe our experience in a way that enhances the effectiveness of our responses, e.g., Experiencing gratitude for loved ones, helping around the house, practicing good citizenship, looking for hope for a brighter future.
  3. Provided a steady dose of wellbeing in ways that focus on our vulnerabilities cannot look for opportunities to be kind to someone struggling. 
  4. Helped us take action and overcome adversity using strengths such as creativity, hope, and optimism, self-regulation, gratitude, social intelligence, kindness, and perhaps most importantly, perspective.
  5. Allowed us to re-examine our priorities in life, reappraise what we value, and evaluate whether our actions match with upholding these values

Questions to help recognise strengths in action to strengthen resilience

  • What strengths did you recognise in yourself & your child(ren) during 2020?
  • How often did it/they show up?
  • How did it energise you/them?
  • How did it help engagement in their learning?
  • How did it support better outcomes, for individuals, your family, the community, in light of ongoing challenges throughout the year.?

Applying our strengths helps us to reframe and reappraise challenges, and potentially provides us with a steady dose of wellbeing to build positive coping mechanisms (Baker et al., 2017)

Recognising What's Important to Young People

Recognition - Noun 

2. Acknowledgement of the existence, validity, or legality of something.

The Mission Australia Youth Survey is the largest annual survey of young people in Australia. In its 19th year, the Mission Australia Youth Survey continues to provide a platform for young people aged 15 to 19 to share their values, aspirations, and concerns. 

The results of the Youth Survey are shared with governments, non-government organisations, schools, and social commentators to inform the debate around the circumstances of young people in Australia and to support the development of policies, services, and programs that meet the needs of young people at their core. 

Highlights from the 2020 Youth Survey

This year 25,800 young people participated in the 19th annual Youth Survey. This landmark report provides invaluable evidence collected during the COVID-19 pandemic about young people’s most pressing concerns.

For the first time, equity and discrimination are the top national issue for young people, increasing by more than 60 percent since last year.

More than one-quarter of young people reported being unfairly treated in the past year, most commonly due to their gender and race/cultural background.

Mission Australia’s CEO, James Toomey, said: “This year, we hear loud and clear that our young people see discrimination as a major issue in Australia, and are very concerned about unfair treatment, with gender inequality being at the forefront of their concerns."

“Dismissing young people’s concerns as gender politics is to miss the point; the message loud and clear is that young females and young males are concerned about gender inequality in Australia."

“Young people are also experiencing and seeing racial injustices in their day-to-day lives. Their own experience of this discrimination, alongside escalating media coverage, public dialogue, and grassroots movements such as Black Lives Matter is likely to be affecting young people’s thoughts about the state of Australia and the world around them.”

The Youth Survey 2020 results also confirmed that COVID-19 has been affecting young people across several life domains. COVID-19 was identified as the second most frequently cited issue of national importance, and concerns were raised concerning the impacts of COVID-19 and the associated lockdowns included education, isolation, and mental health, which was the third most frequently cited issue of concern

I will leave you to contemplate what you recognise as challenges, issues, losses, efforts, achievements, rewards, strengths, and so much more. What was our individual and shared lived experience of 2020 by sharing a link to a beautiful short animation that captured much of the realities of social isolation in 2020 resonated with me.

HOW TO BE AT HOME (2020) - https://youtu.be/OT40Rmjwd-Q



DONNA NAIRN
Director of Counselling 

Acknowledgements & further resources:

www.viacharacter.org

www.researchgate.net/publication/344584812_Strengths-based_actions_to_enhance_wellbeing_in_the_time_of_COVID-19

www.missionaustralia.com.au/what-we-do/research-impact-policy-advocacy/youth-survey