Looking ahead to the first day of school, educators are busy preparing for a successful school year that already is full of surprises and unknowns. Students will need so much more than before including internet access, a computer, and even some technical support to start this year off right. As you assemble materials packets and prepare your classroom, whether in person or virtual, consider your students’ emotional well-being as they return to school. Many students face hardship at home and thus will need a boost to their confidence and peace of mind to be ready to learn. This week, we explore promoting resiliency in students so they can resume their studies with vigor and enthusiasm.
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges and maintain the drive to keep working toward our goals despite the obstacles we face. One way to understand resilience is to visualize a seesaw. Resiliency, coping skills, and self-efficacy act as a counterbalance to challenges in life. Resilient children demonstrate responsible decision-making, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills among others. They have a sense of purpose and are motivated to set and achieve goals. While we are born with some inherent resiliency, our life experiences shape our ability to recover from disappointment or failure. Children who have not been challenged by the pain of failure or defeat and emboldened by a subsequent success they made happen, will struggle to take the healthy risks they will need to take in life to get to the places they want to go.
Learning is a contact sport. To learn is to face a challenge head on and manage our reactions to the obstacles. If we succeed, we move to the next challenge. If we fail, we pick up and try again until we succeed. With a mindset of hope, agency, and determination, we are more likely to succeed. Resilient kids are more likely to take healthy risks because they have experienced and practiced the act of getting back on the horse, so to speak. They are curious, brave, and trust their instincts. Resiliency helps children reach for long-term goals and solve problems independently.
The qualities and characteristics of resiliency can be learned and nurtured in any child. As educators, we can actively help students adopt the resiliency they need to overcome rough spots in the road. Encourage children to build a sense of mastery by reminding them that they can, have, and will achieve difficult tasks. Acknowledge their strength, bravery, and efforts when they solve problems independently. When facing challenges, encourage students to approach daunting tasks with optimism. Trying new things can be scary, but it’s often less scary when it’s modeled by trusted adults. Children can learn by watching adults respond kindly to themselves when things don’t work out as expected. Seeing others dust themselves off and try again shows children that they, too, can fail and try again.
Positive emotions, optimism, and a growth mindset facilitate resiliency and the ability to recover effectively from stress. Optimism is not a denial of the struggles and difficult moments that children experience. More so, it is the reflection on challenging experiences and the application of learning to adjust methods that results in continued perseverance and a growth mindset. Helping children focus on the positive can motivate them to keep striving. When kids have the skills and the confidence to confront and work through their problems, they learn that they have what it takes to overcome difficulty. The more they bounce back, the more they internalize the message that they are strong, capable and resilient.
The Too Good programs develop social and emotional competency through skills development and reinforcement in the constructs of Setting Reachable Goals, Making Responsible Decisions, Identifying and Managing Emotions, Pro-social Peer Bonding, and Effective Communication. The mastery of these skills builds protection within the child to promote hope, self-efficacy, and resiliency. As you plan your academic calendar, remember to incorporate opportunities for your students to challenge themselves so they too can see what they are capable of and push themselves to find success despite the obstacles.