When we are working with children we often talk about resilience, the ability to bounce-back from the problems we face in life.
Our world is not perfect and it is not possible to live our lives without facing challenges and set-backs.
Of course, an essential part of being in a civilised society is our ongoing effort to try and minimise inequities and provide sufficient supports to make sure that every child has the best possible chances in life.
As a nation we believe education is important so we require children attend school. We believe that health is important so we provide access to medical treatment and hospitals.
Unfortunately not all children in our nation can access supports such as these, and even when they can access these supports, they cannot all benefit equally.
We know, for example, that children who have lived in poverty in their early childhood years will start school lagging behind their peers, and they are most likely to continue to lag behind in academic achievement throughout their entire schooling.
That tells us that it is important to examine what makes children resilient to the impacts of the world around them.
We know that children must have good nutrition, and their mothers also must have good nutrition throughout their pregnancy. Poor nutrition in utero and in the early childhood years has a life-time impact on brain development.
We know that children need safe environments where they are not scared, worried or highly stressed.
Chronically high stress levels also impact on brain development and neurochemistry in ways that impair learning and development.
We know that children need loving relationships; they need people who provide nurturing caring. The security of loving relationships can mitigate some of the negative developmental impacts of a stressful environment.
We can all learn how to offer nurturing care. It means paying attention to children.
We can offer children choices within their capacity to make decisions so that they feel they have some degree of control over their lives (think for a minute how you would feel if you had absolutely no control over when you woke up, when and what you could eat, what you could do during the day, and when and where you went to sleep at night).
The younger children are when we offer them choices, (do you want water or milk?
Do you want a vegemite or a cheese sandwich?
Do you want your drink in the red or the blue cup?) the better they get at making decisions.
Through our nurturing care we can help children develop the resilience they need to cope with life’s ups and downs.
Through our advocacy we can continue to shape our society to maintain and improve systems that support social justice and equity for all.