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The True Value of Mental Wealth

In a world of increasing technological connection, how much time do you dedicate to just being alone? I often wonder how our young men achieve what they do in the face of increasing distractions and connectivity with one another. When do they get the chance to be comfortable with themselves and not think about what everyone else is doing? DOWN time from school is now UP time at home, where boys are bombarded with messages of who they should be or what they should look like. It must be tough. Enter the world of Mental Wealth.

We constantly hear the term, ‘Mental Health’. But what if we were to turn this into ‘Mental Wealth’? How much time are we, as parents and carers, dedicating to disconnecting from our work, our emails and constantly updated social lives? I was guilty of it over the weekend with my 16-month-old daughter. She noticed that I was in a scroll mode and in disgust, took it from my hand and hid it under a pillow. It was a welcome reminder that the real happiness is right in front of me.

It is all well and good as an adult to think about these things rationally but imagine being a teenager. They haven’t ever known anything different. The idea of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – is a realistic and day to day existence for our students. Rarely, do I come across a young man who is totally at peace with who they are. Instead, they are struggling to keep their ahead of the latest craze and social pressures of their generation. It is becoming exceedingly important for parents and carers, to adopt a strength-based approach when communicating to our young men.

This approached requires us to recognise our children’s strengths and tell them. When things become tough – grades slip, poor behaviour, arguments – it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing the negatives. This is the time that our children need a reminder of their strengths, when their perceived weaknesses are ruling their lives.

So how do we help them build their Mental Wealth to be resilient young men? The College recently engaged with the BATYR group to present to both parents and students on the topic of Mental Wealth. The aim of the organisation is to help build the confidence and sharing capacity of our young men, at a time, when they traditionally struggle to communicate.

BATYR have some wonderful insights into establishing a safe environment to have effective communication with young people. They write about 5 key elements:
1. Timing
2. Listening
3. Responding
4. Teamwork
5. Perseverance

Importantly, we need to establish a safe environment without time constraints. The notion of ‘wasting time’ is so important in understanding someone. If they talk, listen even if you want to offer solutions, sit back and let them speak. Remember this isn’t about you or what you think, it is about your son and how he feels. Don’t overwhelm yourself with trying to understand why they feel like this. The most important phrase after listening is to reassure them that you are there for them. This is a non-judgemental way of saying “I will support you”. Right now, our boys need to know that someone has their back, no matter what. This allows you to establish the idea of a team where their problems can be heard and that they are not alone. In the hustle and bustle of life it can be easy to forget to follow up on conversations but it is vital to check in with your son and ask if everything is travelling well. Don’t forget to ask about positive strengths in their lives too. By continually reinforcing the positives and persevering with teamwork, together we can help our young men experience great mental wealth.

As part of our commitment to working as a team, we offer to all parents an opportunity to attend a Parent Night “Raising Teenage Boys” on 13 March. Full details are in the app and reserving a seat is advised.
Click here to RSVP.

Sam Brown
Head of Leinster House