‘The journey of life may be easy, may be hard.’  So starts one of the Junior School students’ favourite hymns.  How can we prepare young people for this?  We often talk about developing resilience and this demands that we are honest about the ‘hard’ bits of life’s journey.

In the Junior School, our children are offered many opportunities to ask questions and raise concerns.  Listening carefully and responding sensitively is at the heart of helping them to understand that some things in life may be out of our control, may cause distress and yet, somehow, we can navigate a way through and eventually find joy again.

Allowing children to experience setbacks and disappointments, and modelling an honest response to such events, will help them to manage more significant hardships later in life.

From not being chosen for a ‘golden award’ in assembly; through not being selected as a Sports Captain or being given the lead in a play; to failing a first attempt at a driving test: any of these setbacks will feel significant and very disappointing to students but these occasions have the potential to provide valuable opportunities to work out how future challenges might best be managed.

Allowing young people to experience and manage a range of emotions in a supportive environment will help to prepare them well for the times in the future when they may need to face difficult times more independently, whether that be as they head to university or further in the future.

It can be tricky to find the space to have these conversations and we may feel wary about broaching emotive areas.  My three sons are now in their twenties but I still remember how easy it can be to fall into the trap of only talking about ‘logistics’ in term time – What homework do you have? Where is your swimming kit? Have you practised the piano? Have you fed your pets?  However, grabbing a few minutes to talk on a short car journey, stacking the dishwasher together or chatting over dinner can often be a great start to a meaningful dialogue.

Listen carefully to your child’s questions, allow your daughter to share her feelings of sadness or distress without rushing to smooth those emotions over and avoid using euphemisms.  Make space for these important conversations.  To quote W H Auden out of context: ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.  Silence the pianos…’

Our students are curious.  They see the world with fresh eyes and can challenge perceived wisdom. Our unique Human Intelligence curriculum encourages them to make their voices heard, so we should not shy away from addressing life’s difficulties with them. 

On Saturday 14 October the Junior School will be embracing our students’ vision for the future through our amazing ‘Discovery Zone’ event.  A morning of fun, logic, engineering and technological innovation, this family event is aimed at girls aged 3-11.  

We will have a virtual reality experience, an opportunity to build the greatest racing car ever and a rocket challenge, plus much, much more.  Keep an eye on our social media channels and remember to reserve your spot.  In the absence of a crystal ball to predict your daughters’ futures, our school nurtures an environment that challenges gender stereotypes – both conscious and unconscious – providing a high challenge, joyful space in which to cultivate courage and resilience for whatever life may throw at them. We look forward to seeing you there!

Sacha Heard, Assistant Head/DSL, The Abbey Junior School