Jonathan Hetterly offers tips on resiliency at Salisbury Academy

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

Counselor and adolescent mental health expert Jonathan Hetterly of Southeast Psych in Charlotte spoke on resiliency and how parents can prepare children for success as adults at Salisbury Academy recently.

In today’s world where mental health far outweighs academics as the primary reason that children don’t succeed, kids need space to figure life out, to learn, fall down, and get back up, Hetterly said. It is through these experiences that they learn resiliency, or the ability to bounce back from adversity.

“Without life skills and resiliency, kids are having a tough time in the college environment,” said Hetterly. “Kids today are experiencing an inability to step into real life, where their choices and decisions have the greatest impact on outcomes.”

Evidence of these struggles can be found in college retention and graduation rates: 30 percent of children are not continuing past sophomore year, and only 60 percent of college students have graduated after six years, said Hetterly.

To assist parents in empowering their children and preparing them for success, Hetterly shared important tips with the audience.

“Don’t do for them what they can do for themselves. Habits count at this age,” said Hetterly.

Starting in the 1980s, parenting styles began a shift from a hands-off approach to over-parenting or extreme optimization, Hetterly said. As a backlash to this trend, children are outrating their parents in stress levels and often suffer from a condition called learned helplessness.

“There’s no need for children to learn these skills on their own if we parents do everything for them,” said Hetterly. “Not every obstacle is avoidable, and if we rob children of adversity, they miss out on a critical developmental step.”

In other guidance, Hetterly said that exercise and having a regular outlet for physical release are the best ways to process stress. Sleep is critical, as a rested mind will be more fit to manage stress and anxiety. Additionally, for teens, getting a job yields a multitude of benefits, from learning time management to work ethic to having an outlet outside academics and social pressures, he said.

Hetterly closed with an important reminder about children: “We have good kids, and so many of the choices they make are good ones. We have to be careful not to be hyper-aware of the poor choices.”

Of the more than 50 people who attended, many expressed interest in and gratitude for the information shared by Hetterly.

“Salisbury Academy is to be commended for hosting this informative, engaging and honest seminar,” said Matthew Michael Brown, director of music for First United Methodist Church. “Much of Hetterly’s lecture resonated with me, particularly the role of being a mentor and the positive impact an outside source of trust can create in the life of a young adult.”

Salisbury Academy’s speaker series is sponsored by Novant Health.