I WAS playing snakes and ladders with my granddaughter and suddenly I knew what I was going to write about this month. It was a particularly ludicrous game on an Australian board with probably too many squares with various Australian creatures ready to pounce on us. For nearly an hour, we went up and down the board, always being thwarted as we neared the end and laughing at the never-ending game.

This may sound trite to some, but isn’t life just like snakes and ladders? Every day is a throw of the dice and events can stop us as we attempt to move forward. Some days are fun, helpful and we move forward with ease. Some are just ordinary days with nothing of note happening as we move forward. Then there are those days that stop us in our tracks and send us backwards. Perhaps a short snake that is quick to recover from or a long one that has us sinking and struggling to get back to where we were. We never give up and always throw the dice and have another go.

The game reminded me of a woman who was worried about her nine-year-old son. His father had left home due to an addiction problem and mum was doing her best to protect her son from the unpleasantness of the consequences. She mentioned about playing board games with her son. I responded with a comment about life being like a game of snakes and ladders. She looked at me and in a moment of clarification, said: “I’ve been trying to make my son’s life all ladders.” Understandable, but ultimately not realistic or helpful. Isn’t that what we’d all like, a life of ladders and no snakes?

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again, may be a song title from Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, but generally it’s what we have to do. Instead of teaching happiness to children, which is an ultimately empty concept, shouldn’t we be teaching resilience instead? Perhaps then there wouldn’t be an increase in children with mental health problems. Enjoy the ladders, but be prepared for snakes and never give up.

Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writes as Alison R Russell

chasingbows.org.uk / alisonrussell275.blogspot.co.uk