The UK nurse who killed herself following an Australian talkback radio prank has left the chattering classes all atwitter with recriminations about who is to blame for the tragic turn of events. The hospital, the radio jocks, the nurse’s colleagues – all are copping a share. Rebecca Sparrow has highlighted a point not-often spoken of in connection with the adult world, but which has been doing the rounds in parenting and childcare circles for a while – resilience.
Learning the vital skill of surviving painful experiences can be the most important skill we teach our children.
And it’s becoming increasingly important as we live in a world populated by those who think these infantile prank calls on talkback radio are actually funny. In a world where a man vomiting green milk on the train is done for entertainment, a world where a Kardashian can release a sex tape as a strategic publicity move, a world where gotcha calls on the radio are called comedy gold, then we’re in a world where it is impossible to insulate yourself against stupidity.
Jacintha Saldanha – the nurse and mother of two who allegedly felt so humiliated that she killed herself – was dragged into the global spotlight without choice. She was pranked. In theory it could happen to any of us at any time and rather than rail against the inane radio jocks (commercial radio seems to have deteriorated into teenage boy-level stuff – very childish) who are everywhere and will probably lamentably be around for a while, time would be better spent arming and educating ourselves and our children.
As Sparrow correctly points out in her MamaMia piece about the radio prank nurse suicide, everyone goes through tough spots in their lives and so teaching our children the skills to bounce back from humiliation will give them the ability to move forward and not be crippled by those inevitable moments that hit us all.
I’ve been dumped as a newspaper columnist three times in my career. I’ve lost a child. I’ve embarrassed myself in front of thousands of people. I’ve had bad reviews of my books. And bad reviews of plays based on my books. And in 2010 I humiliated myself on statewide radio when during a celebrity NRL tipping competition I oh-so-confidently proclaimed, “I’d never tip the Broncos. I can’t stand that Brendon Fevola”. It was at that point the host gently pointed out that I had the wrong, er, code. But the humiliation I felt was epic. I was teased by friends and colleagues for months. Rebecca Sparrow
These moments will hit us all to varying degrees. By teaching our children to shrug them off as best as possible, we will help them move forward and better cope emotionally with the fallout of such personal crises.
HappyChild.com.au, a website focused on a range of parenting issues including how parents can teach resilience, offers some practical tips from experts.
Andrew Fuller, psychologist and author of Tricky Kids says parents need to let children solve their own problems.
“If they come home from school and are having a problem with friends, ask them what they could do to change the relationship,” he says. “Guide them – don’t try to solve it.”
Other tips from the experts include teaching our kids to have a sense of humour about themselves, to laugh at their own mistakes. Don’t treat life too seriously.
Also, create a tribe around your children. In this age when extended family often live a long way away, create your own extended family where other adults are trusted and offer a place for children to turn for support and advice.
It is terribly sad that a chain of events set in motion by two moronic, imbecilic lowest-common-denominator hacks with a microphone and a telephone has ended in this awful, untimely death, but blaming the 2DayFM jocks – Mel Greig and Michael Christian – is a bit … well, unproductive and futile. I don’t believe they should be held responsible for the nurse’s actions. They should be held responsible for childish “humour” and I would hope they’re sacked for not being funny, for invading someone’s privacy, for being intrusive for no reason. In much the same way I wish Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O would be sacked for not being entertaining.
For my money, there’s nothing funny, witty or clever about deceiving and humiliating blameless ordinary people, particularly as they go about their work, in this case nursing to the sick and dying.
Resilience allows us to see the bigger picture, to have perspective when things go awry. We’ve all been the subject of office scuttlebutt at times, or got drunk at the Christmas party, or tripped over in full view of the world. But as adults many of us have learned to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. And keep moving forward. Because we come to realise that one embarrassment doesn’t define our whole lives. One slip doesn’t live with us forever, no matter how much it might feel like it at the time.
The lessons we as parents must take away from the radio prank royal nurse suicide is that:
1. We can not predict how our actions will affect others so we should be more mindful of our actions.
2. Comedy is about actual humour, and being, you know, funny. There’s nothing funny, witty or clever about gotcha calls.
3. Having resilience and the ability to put things into perspective is a vital life skill.