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Protecting Health: Building resilience in children, young people and families - blog by Wendy Nicholson

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913503534e3824ceb5f8a70875f28ad5-1On the final day of our week of action, Protecting Health: Nursing and Midwifery Successes and Challenges, we have a blog from Wendy Nicholson, DH Professional Officer for School and Community Nursing, on building resilience in children, young people and families. This coincides with a Webex that Wendy will be hosting today.

This week of action has provided an opportunity to reflect and consider the challenges families face in a modern society. Growing up and family life isn’t always easy and the journey for some can be a rollercoaster. Family breakdown, bereavement, poor nutrition, bullying, drug taking, sexual health - are all challenges and present risk across the whole of our society. Children, young people and families are as unique as the challenges they face – meaning some will be better placed to deal with risks, whilst sadly others may not.

Advances in prevention in public health have supported the development of strategies and models for prevention of health-risk behaviours by focusing on risk and protective factors predictive of these behaviours in families encompassing - parents, children and young people. Given the significance of parenting and family influences on child health outcomes, health visitors and school nurses have a specific contribution to make in identifying issues, using protective strategies, providing effective support and influencing other key professionals to help families overcome these challenges and to develop coping strategies.

The Healthy Child Programmes provides an evidenced framework which supports and promotes healthy development of children and young people, but also can help build their resilience. Health visitors and school nurses as leaders in the delivery of the HCP are in pivotal positions they not only support children, young people and parents, but influence the wider communities which can offer protection through preventative and support strategies, for example children’s centres and schools. Children need a supportive and nurturing environment to enable them build resilience, they need opportunities to;

·         Build and sustain a secure bond with parents or carers;

·         Develop relationships with positive role models;

·         Have opportunities to learn skills;

·         Have opportunities to participate in meaningful activities.

We often talk about resilience and building resilience – but in reality what do does that mean? The dictionary definition describes it as - bounce back or the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. However, to be able to ‘bounce back’ there needs to be a tangible or strong place to bounce back to – not all children, young people and families have this anchor.

Building resilience equips children and young people with the ability to steer through life challenges and find ways to bounce back and to thrive. Remarkably, children and young people are more successful than others at resisting and overcoming stressful episodes. However, there will be times in their lives when they need support to ensure they are protected and they are able to make good choices to support their health and wellbeing. As part of the health protection role, health visitors and school nurses need to incorporate resilience-promoting strategies in their services for children and young people, whilst also supporting other key partners to do so, without a doubt this can make a real difference to the lives of children and young people both now and as they progress towards adulthood.

Why not make a commitment as part of NHS Change Day on health protection by signing our pledge via Protecting Health Campaign Pledge or make your own pledge at NHS Change Day

Follow Wendy on Twitter @WendyJNicholson

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