Last week, I had the online launch for Be Resilient. There was a lovely mix of guests: parents, teachers, librarians, publishing people, actual teenagers – yay! – and the three people close to me to whom the book was dedicated – my brother-in-law, Wyn, and his daughters, my lovely nieces, Bethan and Megan. You were all so welcome! Thank you for giving up your sunny evening.
Apart from the launchy, toasty, fizzy bit where my Editor, Alice, and Executive Editorial Director, Denise, spoke beautifully, I talked for just over 10 minutes about what resilience is and how the book helps. Through the medium of…football! I KNOW! (The other surprise was how I managed to do it so quickly when I have SO much to say! I managed to save all the rest for my full-length webinar in Sept – have you booked yet?? Earlybird tickets will run out before you know it if you’re not quick.)
I will share the video of that talk very soon but meanwhile I’ll answer some questions from the audience below.
Do you think the isolation periods children have experienced over the past year will have long-reaching effects on social friendships and children’s support networks?
Not in any negative way. For a start, most young people have been able to be social online and build support networks like that. But even for those who haven’t (because there are various reasons why some children might not have had these opportunities) our brains are “plastic” which means that they adapt and change all the time – and this is the case even more for young people than older. There are a few key things (vision and language) where the “window of opportunity” brain theory is valid, meaning that those skills have to be learnt at a specific time in development, but for almost everything, including social skills, we can learn them at any time and continue to do so throughout our lives. You can teach old dogs new tricks as long as they want to learn!
I had a very unsocial childhood – born and educated in a rural boys’ school with no friends outside school, no girl friends and no opportunity to be social – but I quickly grew the social skills I needed later. I think we probably grow more social skills in early adulthood than as children, to be honest – as children we have too much else to learn. And I am pretty sure that children in the pandemic have had more social opportunities than I did as a child without a pandemic.
My grandson was born two months before the pandemic started so spent the first 15 months of his life without seeing another baby/child. But he settled into nursery at 15 months more quickly (after about 3 seconds) than my daughters did after a babyhood of being around other babies.
I also think that for many they will have strengthened family relationships and had a chance to value those ties. Of course, that is not the case for all but it’s an important benefit for those lucky enough to have experienced those positives and a less hectic pace of life.
How would you advise young people to walk the fine line between ‘being a good friend’ and ‘letting everyone else make decisions for you’? Given that early teenage years can be very important in terms of identity and finding out who we are and what we stand for.
I would recommend trying to become self-aware and to think about each situation or conversation and trying to work out with honesty whether a particular action or response is the right combination of “looking after myself” and “thinking of others”. In The Teenage Guide to Friends I talk about the problem of “one-way friendships” where one person does all the giving and the other person all the taking. If this is a friendship you’re in, it’s a problematic one because at some point the person doing all the giving will be worn down and have nothing left to give. We love to give and some people more than others, but friendships are there for mutual support and they ultimately work like that.
Of course, sometimes either we or the other person are going through a long and difficult time and need a lot of support – then a good friend rightly gives generously. But it can’t last forever. Again, this doesn’t mean we keep tally or need it to be completely equal, but some balance is necessary at some point, otherwise it’s not friendship but something else. (The something else can also be important but it’s not the same as a friendship.)
Being a good friend does not always mean saying yes. A good friend can disagree or be disagreed with and still remain a friend. And a good friend can be both generous and do the right thing for themselves – not always both at the same time, so sometimes you might have to give more as long as at other times you take more.
Be true to yourself and your values but be prepared to acknowledge (and forgive yourself) when you trip up.
Were you resilient as a teenager? (From 13yo boy)
I don’t think so! I can’t really know because there isn’t a way to measure it – especially in the past – and our memories are flawed but I often say that the books I write now are the voice I wanted or needed to hear as a young person. So I guess that’s a realisation or belief that I wasn’t resilient.
On the other hand, maybe I was more resilient than I think. I dealt with being the only girl (apart from my sister) in a boys’ boarding school. There was quite a lot of physical bullying and feeling like an outsider (because I was!) and I had to be tough. But I think children are often brilliant at dealing with what’s thrown at them.
And I think we are often each not very good at judging our own resilience. We are probably too hard on ourselves a lot of the time. That’s why in Be Resilient I talk about trying to be the voice for yourself that you would be for a friend.
Have you noticed a difference from pre-pandemic to now, in what young people have asked you, or been most concerned about, in any events you’ve held?
I haven’t, actually. I did have a few teenagers messaging me a lot at the start, specifically worried about becoming ill, but I think those were their general anxieties being channelled through this specific fear.
I also know that people who are naturally more anxious than others can get into worry chains. This is my term for what happens when one worry triggers all your other hidden worries even if they’re not connected. i see this in myself: a worry comes out of the blue and then my forgotten worries come back.
I think people have reacted in all sorts of different ways, whatever their ages. Some have been stronger than they might have expected and others have struggled more. Most young people have had a lot of support and a sense of being in something together and that will have helped. I think many adults have suffered a lot more than you’d think because they are trying to keep themselves strong while also helping young people. (See next question!)
100%. Even though it’s written for teenagers, ALL the messages are the exact ones I’d give if I were writing it for adults, just with some different examples and contexts. I think they will find it reassuring, empowering and practical.
Our 13 and 11 year olds can take real value from this book after a challenging eighteen months. What is the key thing you would you say to them to encourage them to read it (other than being another excellent Nicola Morgan book of course)?
Tell them they can’t read it! BAN IT! Tell them it’s for adults and they are far too young.
Seriously, though: I’d say that this is a book which people of every age should read and if you can hear these words now you will find them really useful now instead of waiting till you’re adult. Emphasise that this is not a book by an adult looking down on younger people but by an adult who respects people of all ages and wants to show them how human minds work.
I was just watching an interview with Yuval Noah Harari and he says that there are only two things worth teaching for the future given the speed at which technology is developing and thus society, and one of them is resilience. Do you agree with him that we have so little idea of how the world will look even in the next 50 years that resilience and adaptability are crucial? if so your book could become a handbook of our time!
Resilience and adaptability are certainly crucial but they are not enough. We also need to be able to read – to read and understand and think and disagree and discuss. This set of skills – which is basically deep human communication and empathy – are very undervalued. And they are under threat from the shouty entitlement, anger and arrogance of online discourse.
And yes, Be Resilient would be a very good handbook of our time! Unfortunately, Gavin Williamson isn’t listening to me because he’s too busy banging on about banning phones in schools. No, BE RESILIENT about the temptations of phones and learn to make them your tools, not your tyrants! Learn self-control, not how to obey a rule.
And some lovely comments came in:
Really think this is a great book for sharing as well as self use. Will make every effort to get it seen/sold up North!
The book sounds wonderful. we will definitely be getting it for the library.
Thank you for a fascinating book and an equally fascinating event. Amazing that you got this book published in such a timely manner.
Thank you for this insight into your book. It was fascinating
Can’t wait to read it!
Thank you so much Nicola. Very much enjoyed. Will be buying !
Thank you so much Nicola, that was lovely 🙂
Wonderful session! Thanks 🙂
Thank you can’t wait to read it and more importantly put it into practice!
Thank you Nicola, this will be such an important book!
Thank you, that was wonderful 🙂
Thank you so much, Nicola. This is such a timely book.
That was brilliant! Huge congratulations on the book launch, and thank you for sharing it with us
Wonderful talk Nicola and really interesting launch. Thank you so much for all the care and thought you put into it. Here’s to you and Be Resilient.
Brilliant talk, thanks Nicola and many congratulations!
One of the things I talk about in Be Resilient is building your skills and acknowledging when you’ve achieved something. Giving a talk is something I could never have done when I started in this career, so having people say nice things is an important reminder of how far I’ve come.