January 06, 2021
Perspective and Pace
By Dr Kathy Weston
I am a big fan of Formula 1 and have been delighted to see Sir Lewis Hamilton’s dogged pursuit of excellence continuing to pay off. My interest grew after viewing Drive to Survive on Netflix, a series which highlights, in gritty detail, the fierce rivalries between F1 drivers and teams, alongside the significant personal sacrifices that aspiration entails.
In my work, I often find myself using analogies linked to F1 racing. For example, when I get the opportunity to talk to demotivated teens, I remind them that one reason why their parents may ‘nag’ them, is that ‘nobody likes to see a Ferrari in a garage’; parental frustration is driven by love and a fervent belief in their offspring’s potential. Getting out on the road means getting stuck in, doing what you were born to do and finding out your true capabilities.
I also say to my teenage son, “watch how Hamilton comes out from behind, he’s seen an opportunity, space on the grid and has gone for it!”. It’s an example that I return to when it is time to settle down for the start of a new term.
Drive to Survive, if anything, demonstrates that success of any kind is highly dependent on strategy, technique, team-play and most importantly, pace.
Turns out, we need to dust off those lockdown survival manuals and revise our New Year resolutions.
Grandiose resolutions are unlikely to be realised (exactly because they are grandiose and we are in the middle of lockdown). Instead, stick to small, achievable goals in family life – concentrate on winning the next race, rather than the whole season. How can we get through the rest of this week, or the next two? What do we need to achieve and how can we support one another to reach our goals?
It is time to timetable! By taking a hard, holistic look at work expectations, coupled with the demands of home schooling, we can make a start on our family coping strategy for this next period. As a family, review the new tier rules and start to plan. Show your children that, in times of crisis, we focus on the ‘controllables’; the things that we can do, and what we can control. Reboot family strategies that have worked in previous lockdowns (surface these in family conversation) and manage your children’s expectations.
Pace is extremely important; there is a time for reflection as we come to terms with this new scenario, a time for developing strategy and a time for getting into third gear. If you, or your children, are feeling overwhelmed, focus on metaphorically putting one foot in front of the other, rather than looking too far ahead. If you have ever climbed a mountain and chose to look up at the distant peak, you will know that glimpses into the distance can be demotivating and even anxiety-inducing. By teaching our children to simply focus on each individual step, the task of moving forward and making progress can seem lighter.
No one can ignore the importance of mental fitness during the next few months. Parents can model strategies that support good mental health.
By setting little daily goals, maintaining balance between the different elements of our lives (social, physical, digital etc.), and focusing on both good sleep hygiene and excellent nutrition, we are off to a great start.
When it comes to schoolwork, hard work and aspiration don’t need to stall because exams aren’t taking place or because young people may be assessed in a different way. If anything, pupils pacing themselves, and maintaining good, consistent effort, matters more than ever. In years to come, your child will be asked how they managed during the pandemic and you hope that they will be able to respond that they kept focus over this difficult period, worked hard, kept setting little goals and kept striving.
It is ill-advised to drop the ball because you hear that the game might not be going ahead. Those serious about their academic work, will be thinking like Sir Hamilton; seizing the opportunity to maintain their industry, sustain their progress, remain focused and be ready for when race season resumes.
Are you a Tooled Up member?
Parents in Tooled Up schools can enjoy a range of resources on coping during lockdown including podcasts with top mental health researchers, and neuroscientists and articles to help with motivating children to learn and keeping teens focused. For younger children, discover how play helps them to manage life’s twists and turns by listening to my podcast with expert Professor Helen Dodd, watching my video, or trying out ideas from my new tip sheet.