Tools for post-lockdown resilience building in youth

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The central theme of the online RAN Youth & Education working group meeting on 7 & 8 March 2023 was resilience building for young people against negative polarisation and radicalisation. The need for discussing this topic was stressed during various RAN meetings, as well as in media and research. After all, various experts state that the COVID-lockdowns of the past years have had a big impact on the mental health of young people.

Moreover, they missed the opportunity to practice their democratic citizenship during crucial years of their development. Also, increased importance of social media, together with a constant news stream of world crises, has put large pressure on youngsters. According to practitioners in our meeting, these developments had serious consequences for the general wellbeing of young people, which became increasingly visible in the classroom and in youth work organisations.

Discussions tend to quickly escalate, which might polarise groups and isolate individuals even more. This is rather concerning in the logic of primary prevention, which is why extra efforts are needed to resocialise these young people into becoming democratic citizens.

The five building blocks of resilience which we discussed in this meeting were:

  • Emotional resilience: The capacity to manage and navigate emotions. Developing emotional resilience is vital for safeguarding mental health and overall well-being, particularly among young individuals.
  • Conflict resolution: The ability to deal with disagreement and solve interpersonal conflict in a non-violent and constructive way.
  • Multi-perspectivity: Actively considering multiple viewpoints and perspectives to gain a comprehensive understanding of complex issues such as history, current affairs or personal situations.
  • Personal trust between practitioner and pupil: Practitioners have more impact on a pupil when there is a good base of personal trust between them. However, this trust is not a given, but has to be earned.
  • Critical thinking: The ability to analyse and evaluate information in a rational and objective manner, considering alternative perspectives, and questioning assumptions and one’s own position.

In this conclusion paper, we will first elaborate on the ‘setting the scene’ discussion at the start of the meeting on how the participants experienced the problem stated. Then, we will provide a more in-depth overview of the discussions around these topics and the recommendations formulated for practitioners to include in their daily work.

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