We’ve heard a lot about growing and developing resilience in children in recent years – and with good reason. Resilience is an essential quality and life skill for all of us, and there is a veritable laundry list of positive outcomes associated with being resilient. This week on School Stream, we’re taking a deep dive into resilience to examine why it’s a perennially hot topic for educators, and more important than ever for kids.

Connect with parents and carers where they’re at with a streamlined communication solution.  See how School Stream can help your school communicate reliably in real time or keep reading for our exploration of resilience.

But first, have your say on sun safety at school in NSW

You may remember our first blog post of the year, The Sun and School. Well, now it’s your turn to have a say on sun safety at school. The Cancer Institute NSW has partnered with researchers from the Queensland University of Technology to explore what is working well and not so well about shade in playgrounds. If you are an educator, school staff member, parent or student, head to their website to have your say.

What is resilience?

Resilience is having the capacity to be calm, cool and adaptable when the going gets tough. It’s also described as the ability to bounce back when things get challenging, and the ability to overcome difficult experiences and be shaped positively by them. And let’s be honest, the school years are loaded with challenging moments for kids and teens – both academically and socially. If you can’t remember your own school days, it may be enough to know that the popular film Mean Girls was based on a self-help book for the parents of teenage girls. 

Can you teach resilience?

Yes. The good news is that resilience is not a “you either have it or you don’t” type trait. It can be learned and, while it’s true that some people may be naturally more resilient than others, resilience is something that can always be improved. 

“Our brains respond to the information around us, so resilience can be taught, modelled and nurtured at any age. By doing this, through strong support networks and encouraging communication, we can help young people understand when they feel down and know what they can do to make themselves feel better,” Emma Saddleton from UK Charity Young Minds

Why is being resilient important?

There are so many benefits to resilience in kids and teens. Positive Psychology published this impressive list of benefits in late February:

  • Greater resilience leads to improved learning and academic achievement.
  • Resilience is related to lower absences from work or school due to sickness.
  • It contributes to reduced risk-taking behaviours including excessive drinking, smoking, and use of drugs.
  • Those with greater resilience tend to be more involved in the community and/or family activities.
  • Higher resilience is related to a lower rate of mortality and increased physical health (2015).
  • The experience of more positive emotions and better regulation of negative emotions
  • Less depressive symptoms
  • Greater resistance to stress
  • Better coping with stress, through enhanced problem-solving, a positive orientation, and re-evaluation of stressors
  • Successful ageing and improved sense of well-being despite age-related challenges
  • Better recovery after a spinal cord injury
  • Better management of PTSD symptoms (Khosla, 2017)

No wonder they call resilience the invisible superpower.

Resilience in the digital age

In an age of digital everything on-demand means it is more critical than ever to foster resilience in children. 

Author of The Stress Solution Dr Rangan Chatterjee says:

“Resilience is understanding you can’t always have everything you want right now… Without the ability to defer pleasure and reward, our kids are losing an important skill for their wellbeing…. One of the best ways to teach it (resilience) is by playing board games. These require impulse control, turn-taking, and mental flexibility. They exercise the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain involved in decision-making, emotional regulation and, yes, resilience. Board games are also a good way for you to model resilience by being a good loser.”  (Edited for length and clarity)

What does a resilient learner look like? 

Resilience won’t stop kids from facing frustrations, stress and challenges at school, but it will help them to cope well when those types of situations arise. Good indicators for resilience in kids are things like using positive self-talk for encouragement, rearranging plans to work around unexpected situations, remaining hopeful and persistent if something doesn’t work as planned the first time, and having helpful, age-appropriate strategies to manage their feelings if they are upset.

Learning activities & resources to promote resilience in the classroom

Teachers are so important in supporting children’s social and emotional development at school. It’s an impact that extends far beyond the school gates. As Andrew Martin from the University of NSW says: 

‘Teachers are not a seven-hour Band-Aid that is undone once a child gets home from school: the teacher’s influence is unique and ongoing’. 

This is to say that teachers are exceptionally well-placed to play a key role, in partnership with parents and carers, as part of a child’s resilience coaching team. There are loads of strategies and resources online to support educators in this. A recent article in Teacher Magazine describes the key resilience skills teachers can help students practise and develop in the classroom:

  • Empathy and positive relationships with others
  • Sense of responsibility
  • Self-management of emotions
  • Problem solving skills

Classroom activities such as shared storybook reading, readers’ theatre, memory boxes, creative writing, writing letters and poetry, and games can all be used to help support these four key resilience skills. These activities also have the benefit of supporting literacy and language skills.

(Source: Teacher Magazine)

You can find more curriculum-aligned activities at the national Student Wellbeing Hub, as well as an absolutely cracking reading list of books to encourage resilience at Readings. There is also a separate list of YA titles for teens

We hope you’ve enjoyed our deep dive into resilience. 

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