Studies suggest that resilience – or the ability to bounce back from adverse life events – is an important trait in students’ well-being and success, both for long-term and short-term outcomes. But for some students, developing the right coping mechanisms to bounce back and continue moving forward after a setback may not come naturally.
Beyond Blue, an Australian independent non-profit organisation, notes that a manageable level of adversity or stress can be a good thing for children, as it can motivate them and contribute to overall positive development.
“When children experience adversity, it helps them become resilient. The support children receive while experiencing adversity – and the extent to which that support meets their needs and circumstances – helps develop resilience,” they said.
“Depending on the nature and severity of the adversity, some children will need access to additional specialised support (e.g. clinical support, family therapy). However, you can support children to develop the foundations for resilience at any time. The Expert Panel agreed that resilience is something that every child can learn, with support from others.”
Back in 2016, Judy Willis, a neurologist, wrote in The Guardian that, “Resilience in learning, as in life, is about being able to persevere through setbacks, take on challenges and risk making mistakes to reach a goal.”
Similarly, both parents and teachers can play a role in building students’ resilience.
The stairway to student resilience
Beyond Blue notes that there are everyday strategies for building children’s resilience. Some of the strategies are only appropriate in certain settings, while some will need adjustment to meet the needs of a particular child or age group. Some of the strategies include:
Educating people about resilience
Resilience is not always understood, and the guide encourages those working with children to teach them about the meaning of resilience by explaining it in simple terms using everyday examples. For instance, adults can read age-appropriate stories to children about people who have overcome difficult situations.
Efforts should also be taken with parents and the community. It’s important to teach parents about the meaning of resilience, and how it is influenced by multiple factors and that it can be built and can change over time. Community awareness about child resilience can also be developed during community meetings or groups.
Promote supportive relationships
High-quality relationships are fundamental to children’s resilience. Those working with children can help develop children’s resilience by helping them build and strengthen supportive relationships with their parents and others, and by working with parents and the community to do the same. This could include providing them with opportunities to practise empathy, and offering encouraging environments that promote children’s sense of belonging.
Build autonomy and responsibility
When working with children, adults can encourage them to take on responsibilities and develop a sense of autonomy, in addition to encouraging parents and community members to do the same. For example, adults could provide children with opportunities to make meaningful decisions about their environment, like how to arrange a room or plans for things they’d like to do as part of an end of year celebration.