Defined as the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, we believe this is a key element of good mental health and wellbeing. We like to think of it as ‘bounce-back ability’. It is also key to building confidence and problem solving skills which all contribute to successful learners.
There are five key factors which create a framework to develop resilience. If any of these are not in place, as is the case for many children and young people, it is more difficult for the individual which is why we need to help our children by teaching them resilience skills.
We do this by following The Seven ‘C’s of resilience – Dr Kenneth Ginsburg*, “Resilience isn’t a simple one part entity”.
We explore these areas and also try to build these skills across the curriculum and the school day. Many of these are just as appropriate for parents to do at home.
These are our Top Tips for building resilience in children and young people:
- Make connections-teach children how to make friends. Encourage them to be a friend in order to get friends.
- Help them to help others-encourage activities to help others e.g. fund raising, helping younger children, thought shower how they can do it and allow them to manage a project by facilitating it.
- Maintain a daily routine-stick to the timetable-explain any changes, encourage them to develop their own routine.
- Take a break-have some unstructured time in the day to allow children to be creative or talk through worries.
- Teach self-care and concrete skills-be an example by making time to eat properly, and letting them know you take exercise and have rest. Ensure some fun time during the week.
- Teach them to set reasonable goals and move towards them one step at a time. Give praise even if it’s only for a tiny step. Break down large tasks into small chunks.
- Nurture a positive self-view, help them to manage their emotions and model resilience. Help the child to remember that he/she has successfully managed difficulties before and that this can help them now and in the future. Help them to learn to trust themselves, solve problems and make decisions. Teach them to see the humour in life and the ability to laugh at themselves.
- Emotional management is key in resilience-teach children that all emotions are ok, including negative ones. It’s ok to feel angry, sad or anxious at times. Also teach them that after experiencing their feelings they need to think through what they are going to do next.
- Avoid catastrophising – keep perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook- pay attention to what the child says-anxious adults can affect children own anxiety. When a child is experiencing a painful event, help them to keep a long term perspective. Keep optimistic about the future.
- Let children make mistakes and look for opportunities for self-discovery- tough times are often the times when we learn most about ourselves-hold discussions about what the child has learnt after facing and dealing with a difficult situation.
- Accept that change is part of living- help the child to see that change is part of life and new goals replace old ones. Point out how children have changed as they moved up year groups and discuss how that change has impacted them.
- Don’t accommodate every need-overprotecting can fuel their anxiety. Be predictable and consistent.
- Avoid eliminating all risk- allow risk taking to teach them essential skills from early on and gradually raise the limits.
- Show them how to problem-solve-thought shower strategies for dealing with an issue, teach them how to evaluate the options and make appropriate decisions. Give the opportunities repeatedly to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
- Avoid why questions-ask how ones instead e.g. how did that happen? rather than why did you?
A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings