What is Resilience?

 

What is resilience? Simply put, resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from adversity. Adversity can range from serious loss or a hurtful event to the disappointment of missing out on something or failing at a task. Resilience is the ability to adapt and change to situations, learning from them and improving the chances of successfully dealing with unexpected or challenging things in the future.

Resilience is not about struggling alone. Rather it means harnessing your personal and external resources.

It is impossible to protect children from all the things that may disappoint or upset them in their lives. In fact, over-protecting children can result in learning problems.

In her book, The Pampered Child Syndrome, Maggie Mamen suggests that “The dependent learner, who relies on, and receives, direction and constant bolstering from adults, will have a very difficult time developing the confidence to become a competent, risk-taking problem-solver”. Such children “will not even consider tackling this often painful and frustrating task because of the discomfort it causes

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Charles Darwin

A resilient child is characterized by their flexibility, hopefulness, optimism about the future, positive self-esteem and their strong relationships with others.

Resilience, despite common belief, is not a personality trait that we are born with. Rather it is a set of skills, attitudes and learned behaviours that can be influenced and facilitated by the child’s environment. As parents, we can guide and support our children to better cope with changes, disappointments and challenges.

Research has discovered that resilient children share most of the following factors:

  • The ability to stay focused on tasks
  • Problem – solving skills
  • Self -regulation of emotions
  • Self – efficacy and positive self esteem
  • Being involved in groups (sport, religious or community)
  • Optimism about the future
  • Feeling valued and knowing their strengths
  • Contact with caring and competent adults

Why is resilience important?

Resilient children are flexible and cope better with change and uncertainty. Their optimism and confidence helps them to resolve problems more easily; mastering tasks increases self-esteem and generates hopefulness about future challenges. Resilient children, therefore, tend to be happier, sociable, positive thinkers, and are less likely to develop mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

You cannot appreciate the sun until you go through a rainy day

Matthew Johnstone

How can you help your child learn to be more resilient?

Help them to develop a more positive view of their strengths and abilities. Redirect any discussion about what they cannot do. Show them how they can apply their strengths to solve problems and deal with difficult situations. Teach them to use positive self-talk like “I think I can” or “I cannot do it yet”.

Stop them from disasterizing. Don’t try to protect them from difficult feelings and situations. Help them to keep things in perspective. People make mistakes, are disappointed, lose friends, struggle to learn new skills every day. Making mistakes and overcoming difficulties is how we learn and become stronger.

Acknowledge their feelings but then help them to look towards the future.

Help them to accept things that cannot be changed, and encourage them to make plans to change those things that they can influence. Remind them that the longer they hold onto their negative feelings, the longer it will take to improve a situation.

Check that their plans and goals are realistic and help them to break their goals down into small, achievable steps. No one achieves all their goals, so encourage them to acknowledge their efforts each day.

Encourage them to reach out – to make new friends, spend time with other positive adults and take part in group activities. Children who are able to develop supportive, healthy relationships tend to cope much better with life’s difficulties. These relationships can also help them develop other resilience skills.

Talk to them without judgement. Find out more about their fears and dreams. Teach them to communicate their needs and ideas clearly and openly, and provide lots of fun games and activities that use problem-solving.

Encourage a positive outlook for the future by helping them to recall all the good things they have experienced and achieved so far. Family photo albums and gratitude journals are good starting points.

Help them to visualize a positive outcome when facing a situation that provokes fear. If the fear is based on a previous negative experience, revisit that incident with them to identify some ways where they could have handled the situation differently.

Remember! Resilience is not a personality trait. It is a learnt set of skills, behaviours and attitudes.

Feel like learning more?                                                                           Watch this inspiring story – Sam: My Philosophy for a Happy Life

Would these ideas be useful to present at a staff meeting or a parent evening? Go to my workshops link.

Further reading

You might be interested in these:

The big little book of resilience by Matthew Johnstone (Pan MacMillan Australia)

Resilience series for teachers by Annie Greeff (Crown House Pub Ltd)

One Step Ahead: Raising 3 to 12 Year Olds by Michael Grose (Random House Australia)

The Pampered Child Syndrome by Maggie Maman (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)

 

Factors that influence Learning

We are all unique individuals with unique talents and preferences.

We all have the ability to learn, but we each have a personal learning style, and our own natural strengths and weaknesses.

By the time they start school, each child has learnt to walk, talk, play and create in their own style and in their own time.

When a child learns to walk, it is a process of trial and error, bumps and bruises, frustrations and experimentation.

But they persevere – because they want to explore their world and be like everyone else.

They are wired to learn, but they are also warmly and proudly encouraged by the adults on the sidelines. Everyone expects that, before they learn to walk, there will be many failed attempts. But each time, with encouragement from the sidelines, they will readjust their efforts with the insight gained from their earlier mistakes.

Then, one day, they will take those first tentative steps and the sidelines will cheer. The child is praised for their efforts and encouraged to venture further. (They are not graded for their learning outcome!!)

They will take on more challenges on two feet, trusting their ability to develop stronger skills and to overcome new obstacles.

But then … things can start to change for some children!

Difficulties in learning may not just be related to ability. Yes it is true that genetically we are all different. We have some natural gifts and the potential to develop others. In some areas, that potential is harder to embrace, and we will not be excellent at everything, no matter how hard we try. But all human beings have the potential to grow and learn, providing the conditions are right.

Learning requires persistence and optimism,  yet many students have lost or not yet developed these strengths.

Learning requires motivation and organization, but many students are overwhelmed by the scope and quantity of the demands on them. They lose focus and confidence, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Learning requires insight which comes from taking risks and being curious. However, many students have stopped asking questions and trying new things due to negative experiences in the past.

Learning requires self-belief, yet many students quickly learn to measure their success by the grade they receive and not the effort and progress they made. Failure to achieve an A grade, no matter how much progress was made, can quickly translate into a sense of failure as a person.

Everyone has the ability to learn, but each person starts at a different point with different learning styles and at their own pace. In the classroom some individuals may struggle to keep up with the pace and level of their peers, and can benefit from individually tailored approaches.

Before you know how to ride a bicycle,

you don’t know how to ride a bicycle

To learn how to ride a bicycle takes courage, optimism and eagerness to learn. It starts with a struggle, a little nervousness, trial and error, wobbling, falling sometimes, feedback from others, approximations, encouragement, going at your own pace, starting on a clear, smooth surface, wobbling some more, straightening up, relaxing a little, venturing further, getting confident, speeding up, feeling in control… and they’re off!

Learning to solve a Maths problem, to speak in Italian or to write a history essay is no different. Students need to remember that before they are successful, they will not know what they are doing. And to struggle with not knowing is not only okay, it is vital in the learning process.

But they also need the right conditions – time and space, encouragement for effort, a safe place to experiment and take risks, patient guidance and feedback, and an environment that breeds optimism and is free of judgement.

There are many amazing teachers doing amazing things in classrooms, creating great conditions for learning. However, some students need extra individual support to account for their unique learning style and pace, to address earlier gaps in their learning, or to rebuild optimism and self-belief that has been lost through past negative experiences.

If you believe your child could benefit from some individual mentoring then please feel free to contact me.