Tell me about a time when you were brave

Author Elizabeth Gilbert woke at 4am last week feeling anxious and frightened (I think we can all relate). To calm herself, she turned to Instagram and shared a story to her followers and about a time when she was brave, “Telling stories and connecting with people makes me fee calm” she confessed.

Gibert’s followers then shared their own stories of personal bravery in the comments. Deciding to quit chemotherapy, fleeing the war in Iraq, getting help for agoraphobia, burying a child. Her page was filled with extraordinary tales of ordinary people who have acted courageously.

When I was back in the classroom as a teacher, I sought to recognise the emotional and social courage my students displayed too – and there was plenty to acknowledge. There were the kids who stood up to their peers when they didn’t agree with their behaviour, the young people who were managing violence or absent parents within their homes, the teens who built up the nerve to ask their crush to the school formal (despite their trembling hands and quivering voices).

I also told my students stories; tales that featured plucky young people who used their wisdom and wit to conquer dark things. And I encouraged them to write their own courage narratives — to articulate a time when they had stepped up, or taken a risk.

Clinical psychologist Andrew Fuller, who specialises in working with young people, argues we should be more actively teaching the type of courage that moves beyond taking a physical risk and instead requires young people to take social risks; “Physical bravery is actually often easier (we may be merely acting on impulse in these moments).”

Fuller talks of the importance of being on “a continual treasure hunt” with our kids. This does not imply we should praise their every thought and deed (a path that may foster narcissism). Rather, we should be on the look out to help them identify and be inspired by moments of courage both in themselves, and in others.

So here’s an activity to add to your remote learning lesson plans during these days of uncertainty; ask your child to tell you about a time when they were brave. 

And share your own story of courage with them too.

The beauty of focusing on the brave? It grows.