Resilience in Children
Drives Growth Mindset
Rubber, nylon, wool, and silk are resilient materials. After being stretched to their limits, they return to their original size and shape, good as new, and ready to perform again.
For humans, resiliency is the ability to move forward and to keep working to find different solutions when facing difficult situations. The Greatest Generation, those born from 1900-1920, personify resilience. These individuals experienced the great depression and the horrors of World War II and then moved forward to create one of the wealthiest and most influential societies on earth.
Raise Resilient Children
Today, we live in an impatient and immediate society. Many things come quick and easy like YouTube, texting, social media, fast food, internet searches, one-click purchases, and more. However, these conveniences carry additional stresses. It is easy today to feel constantly compared to others or the need to perform faster, better, or get the most likes.
News stories use sensational fear-mongering tactics to constantly compete for our attention. Social media sites play with our self-esteem and confidence. We often compare ourselves to the perfection we falsely infer in other people lives from their social media posts. Comments, positive or negative, left on a screen compile and affect how we feel about ourselves.
Imagine being a child trying to navigate this increasingly complicated world with all its real and imaginary expectations, its busy extracurricular activities, and what may appear as an unsettling and unstable future. For their emotional and mental health and the good of our society, children need to develop resilience coping strategies.
Building Resilience in Children
“Resilience isn’t a simple, one-part entity.”- Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
You can teach resilience by:
Too often we instruct children by focusing on what they are lacking to accomplish an assignment or goal. For healthy child development, children need positive feedback to help them identify things they are good at.
Giving feedback regarding how a child goes about processing a task including their effort, focus, strategy, progress, choices, and determination helps them identify their natural strengths. Giving positive feedback on a child’s self-regulation to control their emotions and behavior will help them identify their strengths. These strengths allow them to use their sense of agency to control their actions, responses, and choices for positive outcomes in the future.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”-E. E. Cummings, poet
Building a sense of self-confidence is a must for resilient kids to fully engage in learning. Self-confident learners are free to make mistakes because they know mistakes are part of the learning process. Remind students that what they might perceive as a negative outcome isn’t necessarily a bad thing nor does it define them. It is just part of figuring out how to succeed.
Self-confidence increases as kids are given opportunities to learn, explore, discuss, and build with positive feedback from educators and other students. When you calmly discuss what went right and what didn’t go as well, it is an opportunity for a child to learn without feeling judged or criticized.
“Self-efficacy is the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations.”-Albert Bandura, phycologist.
Children need to believe a given task or assignment is within their capability. You can increase their perception that they can succeed in completing a new or challenging task by reminding them they once thought something was difficult before mastering it like learning to subtract. You can also show them examples of other children their age who accomplished the new concept you are teaching by using video clips or written reflections from previous students.
Modeling Preservation and Grit
“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”- Julie Andrews, actor, author
The concept of resilience is being willing to stick with a challenge, learning to cope with difficult things, and investing in long-term goals.
In early childhood, encourage kids to become a persistent character like Batman or Dora the Explorer. Just like these characters, kids can achieve long-term goals like excelling at math, reading a giant chapter book, or learning to play a musical instrument if they keep working at it.
For older children, regularly highlight and discuss books with both real and fictional characters who role model preservation and grit. Help your students identify how the character dealt with challenges and the positive outcomes of their determination to accomplish their goal.
Kids need the coping skills of self-confidence and self-efficacy to reduce the personal and social stresses of our immediate and impatient world. You can help them to understand they don’t need to stress over or be in a rush to solve problems. By relying on their strengths and persevering, they can complete any task or accomplish any goal with a positive and healthy attitude.
Article by Miss Jae
Frey, Nancy; Fisher, Douglas; and Smith, Dominique. All Learning is Social and Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom and Beyond. ASCD. 2019. Pp. 18-41.
“Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers.” American Psychological Association. 2020. https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience-guide-parents
“Building Resilience in Children.” Healthy Children.org. 2014. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/emotional-wellness/Building-Resilience/Pages/Building-Resilience-in-Children.aspx
Riopel, Leslie. “Resilience Skills, Factors, and Strategies of the Resilient Person.” Positive Psycology.com. 2020. https://positivepsychology.com/resilience-skills/
“Resilience.” Bounce Back Project Newsletter. https://www.bouncebackproject.org/resilience/
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