31 May 2023

Bouncing forward: Introducing a new wellbeing resource for children

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Austen Hardwick (Children and Youth Department) talks to Salvationist about supporting young people’s wellbeing and new resource Bounce.

How do you support young people in such a rapidly evolving landscape?

We never get away from the world in which a child is trying to operate. That’s our starting point. When I was young, it would be a form of punishment to be sent to your room. These days, it’s a form of punishment to be told to come out of your room.

There is a very individualised experience of childhood, whereby children are connected globally but loneliness is common. In the Children and Youth Department, we keep coming back to three questions around identity, purpose and belonging: Who am I? Where do I fit in? What difference can I make?

How do you know what concerns young people are dealing with?

One of our priorities is to listen to people on the front line. It’s very easy to create resources from the centre and make what you think everyone needs, but we check in with people on the ground – heads of schools, teachers, officers, local children’s leaders and children – and we listen. That then informs what we do. We begin with where children are at.

How did Bounce come about?

Schools are busy places. Everyone’s stressed out, but they need to make an impact, be able to measure it and do it pretty quickly with limited resources. I know from my experience in education that the development of a child is really important, with them having the opportunity to articulate not just their emotions but also their developing spirituality. Bounce is an easy and fun way to help make that happen.

How does it work?

We provide sticky letters that go on a ball and a pocket-sized pack of question cards. The game works by bouncing the ball around the group and the letter under your thumb relates to the cards – for example, ‘B’ for ‘Breathe’. On the back of the cards are sentence-openers, so the adult says something like ‘my favourite food is…’ and the child finishes the sentence. The letters are designed to unpack that child’s world and we scaffold their responses.

The Salvation Army edge comes in the ‘U’ card for ‘Understand’. The openers are things like: ‘If God is there, I wish he would…’ We’re really getting them to think on a spiritual level. There’s also a Bible ideas card with quotes from Scripture. As the Army, we go into schools with a 360-degree respect for the individual. We recognise that every child has a spiritual life – they have an inner world, which is sometimes externally shared but often quietly processed.

I recently had an email from a teacher who said their class couldn’t get enough of Bounce – that it created an atmosphere and they found children who weren’t necessarily comfortable talking had grown in confidence.

Society is increasingly open about mental health. Does that make you optimistic the future?

Yes. There’s a definite openness to talking about these things, which weren’t spoken about when I was a kid. We just have to create moments where they feel they can do that. That’s what we are doing with Bounce and our upcoming podcast, The Small Fish Podcast.

What’s The Small Fish Podcast about?

We identified that, for tweens, the summer in between leaving primary school and starting secondary school is when the wobbles happen. We wanted something to help launch children into secondary school with confidence.

There are 14 short episodes, which will drop all in one go this June – before the end of the summer term – for families or children’s leaders to listen through with their children. It’s about equipping and bringing them together to talk through these issues. So a five-minute podcast episode becomes the springboard for what they chat about when they load the dishwasher or travel to school.

So the bottom line is opening up communication?

Absolutely. We’re creating opportunity for children to express how they feel, and building a relationship with them, earning the right to steer and nudge them in a healthy direction.

Get your copy of Bounce

Find out more about Bounce

Discover more

A ball based wellbeing resource for schools or church groups. It offers children the opportunity to get talking, listening and moving!

14 five-minute episodes to help children transition from primary to secondary school as they become small fish in a big pond. Now including 14 illustrated video versions.

Working alongside young people is central to the mission of The Salvation Army.

Resources for sport and wellbeing.