Resilient Young Minds
Resilient Young Minds
As we embark on a new school year, there is no doubt that families and school staff are hoping for the very best start to the year for each and every student here at Mountain View Adventist College. Thriving at school is more than just academic results or sporting achievement, it is a preparation ground for a child’s future life and who they are going to become in their adult years. More than just having a head full of specific knowledge and skills, we want students to be equipped with transferable skills and the ability to adapt to different situations and challenges they may be faced with in the future. A key factor to help them to be healthy and flourish in life is resilience. This refers to the capacity to use resources around you and within you to adapt to whatever life throws at you and respond in a flexible way to be able to reach your full potential.
However, developing resilience requires having the right skills and having practice at using those skills in responding to adversity (difficult situations). If our children are never challenged and required to face adversity, they won’t have the opportunity to develop and practice resilience. So, how do we help children with this process? Here are a few practical steps you can take:
Connection: Help your child to interact with a range of different people and maintain deep connections with friends and family, and have opportunities to interact with strangers and acquaintances in a safe way. It is important that your child’s deep connections are with people who really care about their wellbeing and will have a good influence on them. They will learn how to be resilient by having it modelled to them in a healthy way. If your child feels connected and like they belong, it can have a powerful impact on their confidence and sense of self.
Risk Failure: If your child feels that you believe in them, they will have confidence to try new things and attempt to do their very best (and risk failure), knowing that they will have a stable support base if they do fail. Failure is a normal part of moving towards success and achievement, and it’s a healthy type of adversity that will help to develop resilience. If we always shield our children from failure and disappointment, we can inadvertently deprive them of the opportunity to develop resilience by bouncing back from failure and believing that they can attempt something again in order to achieve. If we trust them to attempt new things they will learn that failure is a normal part of the process of learning new skills and not something to be afraid of or avoid at all costs.
Self-awareness: The more we understand our own inner processes, thoughts, strengths and weaknesses, the more we are confidently able to respond to challenges. Help your child to process what happens to them on a daily basis, whether big or small events; and help them to understand their own responses. You could ask some simple open ended questions such as, “How are you feeling today?”, “What did you enjoy today?”, “What bothered you today?”, “What can you do to change that”. This will encourage them to have personal insight and independent thinking about everyday events and interactions. You might also learn a lot more about your child and their life at school. If your child is not very talkative, encourage them to express these things through a drawing or charade. It’s important to validate a child’s feelings as all emotions have a purpose and can be helpful in some way.
Positive Radar: Encouraging your child to mindfully notice and reflect on the positives each day can help to develop resilience as well as an ‘attitude of gratitude’. There is usually always a positive and negative view-point to every situation, and often our natural ‘default’ setting is to focus on the negative, especially if we are feeling anxious or worried about things. The positive won’t be obvious in every situation, so sometimes it can help to just be affirming and neutral rather than negative, for example “Well you did your best and that’s all you can do”, or “There’s nothing we can do to change that so let’s make the best of it”. How your child perceives their experiences can have a powerful impact on their confidence and ability to cope with what’s happening around them.
Clear Boundaries: Children feel safe and confident to take healthy risks when they know where the boundaries are. It is a loving act to establish clear boundaries and realistic expectations of our children so we can not only protect them, but we can help them reach above and beyond their potential. Practical factors in setting boundaries can include giving them a healthy routine of exercise, healthy eating, sleep and social interaction so they have the personal resources, physical/emotional health and energy to give each day their very best shot.
For more information and practical tips on how to develop resilience in your child, please feel free to contact the Psychologist at Mountain View Adventist College either through the school’s reception or via email: [email protected]. Claire works at Mountain View on Tuesday each week and is available for psychological assessments and counselling for students and their families.
(This article contains information adapted from the article “What is Resilience and How to Do It” By Andrew Fuller from the book entitled “Growing Happy, Healthy Young Minds” Edited by Dr Ramesh Manocha).