How do we teach children to be resilient?
Resilience is one of those words we think we know the meaning of. It features in GL Assessment’s new report Children’s Wellbeing: Pupils Attitudes to Self and School.
To many of us it means ‘bouncing back‘, adapting, showing grit and being ‘hardy. It is often seen as dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity.
But this seemingly simple concept means so much more than this.
According to the Stockholm Resilience Centre,
Resilience is the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop. It is about how humans and nature can use shocks and disturbances like a financial crisis or climate change to spur renewal and innovative thinking.
To others, resilience is at the very heart of wellbeing and is made up of the 7Cs: competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.
I first came across the 7Cs through a Dr Pooky Knightsmith training course, ‘Building Resilience in Children and Young People‘.
The 7 Cs are actually an adaptation of the Five Cs model of the Positive Youth Development movement.
In his new book, Building Resilience in Children and Teens, Kenneth Ginsburg (a paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) talks about the 7 Cs of resilience we need to think about:
Children need to be seen when they are doing something right and to be given opportunities to develop specific skills. If children in our class display a particular passion for something or aptitude for a specific skill, activity or sport, we need to recognise this and let them know we’ve noticed and encourage them.
The solid belief in one’s own abilities is everything. As we teach and nurture, we build children’s confidence. We need to be careful not to undermine confidence but develop it by pushing children to achieve and creating age-appropriate opportunities for experiencing success.
When children are part of a community (class, team, club) they know they aren’t alone if they struggle and that they can develop creative solutions to problems. Close ties to family, friends, school, and community give children a sense of security.
Children need an understanding of right and wrong and the capacity to follow a moral compass. A fundamental sense of right and wrong helps children make wise choices, contribute to the world, and become stable adults.
The experience of offering their own service makes it easier for children to ask for help when they need it. Once children understand the feel-good factor of helping others, it becomes easier to ask for help when it’s needed – being willing to ask for help is a big part of being resilient. Children who learn to cope effectively with stress are better prepared to overcome life’s challenges.
Children need healthy coping strategies to manage their stress. Some strategies involve engaging and disengaging such as breaking down seemingly impossible problems and challenges into smaller, achievable pieces, avoiding things that trigger extreme anxiety, and just letting some things go.
Children need to feel like they have a degree of control over their lives and their environment. When they realise that they can control their decisions and actions, they’re more likely to know that they have what it takes to bounce back.
Helping children develop social and emotional skills through the 7Cs paves the way for success in academia and life and it is something we can learn. As the American Psychological Association says,
Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviours, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.
What makes the most difference to ‘being resilient’? According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child,
The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.
Relationships really do matter.
- Learn more about resilience and reading about toxic stress through the teaching experience of Kavitha Selvaraj (who is now a doctor). If you haven’t see this yet then take time to have a read and learn why doctors and teachers should work together more.
- See What is resilience? by Professor Angie Hart
- What does resilience mean to young people?