R is for Resilience
I was chatting with Dame V recently about stuff. More specifically, we were reflecting on the effect of Covid and lockdown on children. There has been much written on this topic, and in no less august a publication than The Lancet I read an article exploring the possible short-term and long-term effects on children and young people’s mental health post-pandemic. It discussed a term that has been bandied around quite a bit in the media – ‘The lost generation’ – and questioned as to whether this was appropriate or even true.
Well, Dame V for one takes issue with this expression and proposed a much more positive description: ‘The resilient generation’. Now resilience is a term that has become popular in recent times and seems to be applied in all sorts of contexts. The government assures us that the economy is resilient; apparently the NHS is resilient, as are our supply chains, food distribution channels, energy sources, petrol reserves and medical supplies. Tell that to my friend who needs a blood test but has been told to wait two months as there is a shortage of the vials used to store the samples sent for analysis.
I found a definition of resilience as: ‘being able to continue functioning relatively normally in adversity’. It involves both coping and acknowledging when things are getting too much, yet somehow pulling through. Fair enough.
Now there is clearly a world of difference between individual resilience and that ascribed to some of the structures mentioned above. On the personal front, I doubt whether anyone reading this has not faced adversity on frequent occasions in their lives and I wonder if something like resilience is innate or acquired, a sort of nature/nurture question. IMHO surely resilience can be developed and refined when the need arises.
I think back to my mother’s wartime diaries begun at the age of 12 in 1939, which I read during the first lockdown of Spring 2020: https://damesnet.com/?p=7603. She was evacuated to a family out of London where she was not particularly well treated. Though her diaries do not mention this, she told me how she was made to share a bed with the daughter of the house where she was billeted. Apparently, this girl often wet the bed, but always blamed my mother for doing so. You can guess who her mother believed. Finally, my mother decided she could not bear this any longer and wrote to her parents in London, who agreed she could return home.
Resilience? I think so; once back in London the house next door was bombed out and the family had to move in with her grandparents. Her sister, ten years younger, had meningitis as a baby and had mild epilepsy and my mother was expected to share in the childcare. These were major disruptions in the life of an adolescent girl, who also had to accept her parents turning down the recommendations of her school that she study to become an accountant, or at least a bookkeeper. The only career they would allow her was to embark on was as a secretary. Meanwhile no effort was spared to get her possibly not quite as bright younger brother through the steps needed to qualify as a dentist.
So I’m with Dame V on this one; I have faith in today’s children to develop the resilience needed to recover from the stresses of the pandemic. Sadly and in the light of current events, I fear they may need to draw on their reserves in the future.
That probably goes for the rest of us too.