For most of us, most of the time, we live in great comfort. We are fortunate to live in a country and time of relative ease compared to other places and times. Perhaps this is one reason why the discomfort caused by COVID over the past few years has been felt so acutely by us who have learnt to expect ease. I do not mean to diminish the real hurts and consequences of COVID in terms of health, employment, relationships, and education; they are real and significant. However, I do want to raise the idea that we need to consider the role of discomfort in our own lives and in the lives of our children.
One common approach to modern life is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. It isn’t a ridiculous approach to life as I think it’s very human to pursue what we see as good and beneficial whilst fleeing what we see as bad and harmful. A problem with this approach, and I think there are many, is that we cannot control our lives to ensure such a binary existence persists – a world in which I only experience pleasure and never experience pain is not the real world we’re raising our children to live in. Nonetheless, it appears that many young people today believe that they should expect life to go well and to live in comfort. This is likely due to a number of larger social and cultural factors, but it is worth considering how we parent our kids through the discomfort they experience in their own lives.
If you’re finding it difficult to see how you approach parenting during discomfort, consider how you would respond to your child in the following scenarios:
“My friends are spreading rumours about me and talking behind my back. I’m not hanging out with them anymore”
“I’m really anxious. I don’t want to go to school. Can I stay home?”
“I don’t like school. Everyone is awful and I don’t fit it. Can I change schools?”
These scenarios and responses are common, and they share two key ingredients; firstly, a level of discomfort experienced by the student and secondly, a desire to stop the discomfort. Obviously, the scenarios are oversimplified and dealing with these situations in real life needs to account for the possibility of bullying and mental health issues which do require more nuanced approaches. Nonetheless, it is worth considering at a general level how we might parent in these scenarios. It is also worth considering whether we’re inadvertently training our kids to flee discomfort in this way.
So… What is your approach to discomfort in your child’s life? When difficulty comes in their life, how do you guide them? What are you teaching them about discomfort and how to manage it?
If we embrace the desires of the child in the scenarios above, they’ll change friendship groups, miss some days of school and change schools. A problem with responding in this way is that they haven’t learnt to deal with discomfort. When further discomfort comes in their new friendship group, the next day at school or at their new school, what resources have they developed to deal with it? They’ll likely seek to flee once again, and the problems will likely repeat and increase. Instead, I’d like to recommend another option; that we help our children grow more comfortable with and through discomfort.
People, not just children, appear to grow most when they are experiencing some level of discomfort – this is particularly true in learning (see Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development). Our responsibility as adults is to ensure this level of discomfort is at a manageable level for the children in our care. This means neither completely taking away sources of discomfort nor leaving kids alone to deal with their troubles alone. It requires wisdom to get this balance right, but I believe it is worth the struggle. For our young people to grow in resilience, they must learn to coexist with a certain level of discomfort in their younger lives so they can learn to manage discomfort well in their adult lives. This will be a struggle for us as parents who are often tempted to remove discomfort too quickly from our children’s lives. Mrs Criminale (School Psychologist) recommends that sitting and being with your child through their discomfort whilst validating their emotional response and how they’re feeling can be a helpful way for them to move through the distress and build resilience.
This view of accepting a degree of discomfort becomes more significant when considered in light of the Gospel, which conveys suffering as being inherent and purposeful in our lives. It’s inherent in that suffering is built into the fabric of our fallen world, being experienced by each of us and by God himself in his Son’s life and death. It’s purposeful in that God uses suffering to achieve his purposes. This was true in the life of His son, being made perfect through suffering (Hebrews 2:10), and it continues to be true in the lives of those who choose to pick up their cross and follow Jesus.
I hope this stimulates your thinking a little about your approach to parenting through discomfort. As students return to school on site, there is an opportunity for growth as they learn through and by the discomfort caused by returning to the adjusted routines and disrupted relationships after lockdown. We are eager to work in partnership with you to ensure students receive the right level of support in managing the discomforts they experience at school.
Grace and peace,
Dean of Students 7-9
Please do not send students to school who are symptomatic or awaiting COVID test results.
Students can have their laptop chargers tagged so they can recharge on site by dropping the charger to High School Student Office on Wednesday mornings before school.
Please remind students to ensure they pack leather shoes for practical subjects when wearing their sports uniform to school.
More information about end of term events will be published in the coming weeks.
For details about how High School is operating now that we’re back on site, visit the following website: https://sites.google.com/wccs.nsw.edu.au/wccsremotelearning/return-to-school