Life is full of obstacles for all people.The ability to bounce back and learn from those obstacles is an important skill, called resilience. When you have resilience you are able to overcome problems in your life and resilience generally has been found to make people more successful. Research from The Department for Education found that children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing, on average, have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school and in their later years.
Photo credit: Mayberry Health and Home
There is a strong connection between mental health and resilience. When you don’t have a healthy mental state you may have a harder time being resilient and vice versa.
Mental Health Ireland report that “Mental health problems affect about one in ten children and young people” (http://www.mentalhealthireland.ie/children/). These mental health problems include depression, anxiety, and conduct disorder. Most often these responses are directed to what is happening in their lives.
According to Islington MHARS (Mental Health And Resilience in School) resilience is of great importance to a person’s wellbeing and education, since it can protect against mental health problems and enable effective lifelong learning. Some groups are more vulnerable to developing mental health difficulties than others. It is worth noting that children with learning disabilities are more at risk for developing poor mental health (Royal College of Nursing, 2010) so the importance of actively developing resilience in this group is very important.
Children who are not building resilience often display certain behaviours or habits, or may say certain phrases. For example, they may:
Resilience is similar to a muscle. It is a state of mind which can be trained in everyone provided we are given the equipment and tools to become stronger. Below are a few tips that can be used to build resilience in a child’s home and school life.
Help children create connection. Resilient children have strong connections to other people. Kids who have authentic relationships with others and who have access to talking openly with a trusted nonjudgmental adult when they make mistakes, can be critical in helping them grow their personal resilience. Good relationships can be had with their teachers, family, or friends. MAHRS recommends the creations of peer support programs, which can offer a safe place to teach empathy, social and listening skills. Planned opportunities to socialise with different people as well as teaching children to ask for help and encourage kindness are also important ways to help them build resilience. Another great resource for further tips comes from this terrrific article by Maureen Healy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creative-development/201407/the-resilient-child
Positive thinking. When children have a problem it is important to help them remember what they have done well in the past or how they were able to solve the problem. Hands on Scotland suggest using solution-focused techniques that we can also model for them. One powerful suggestion they share is this: ‘Help children to find what they are really good at and what their strengths are. Help them focus on these strengths because this will help them feel positive about themselves and increase their confidence to overcome any problems they face. Show them how you use your own strengths to cope with any problems you face.’ Learn more at: https://www.handsonscotland.co.uk/flourishing_and_wellbeing_in_children_and_young_people/resilience/resilience.html
Teach by example. As mentioned above, children learn best by observing those around them. If the people around them exhibit resilience and resilient mindsets, children will follow suit. Again, as adults, we can model the behaviour we want the kids in our lives to adopt. Thus it is important to make sure that you yourself understand what it takes to be resilient and practice that! It’s important to also associate with people who are likewise interested in practising and modeling resilience, even if that means seeking out courses and going through training and exercises.
Be conscious of specific needs. Students with learning disabilities need more help than other students in being resilient. Therefore it is important to look for specialists and/ or programs that can address the specific needs of these children.
If you have a student that you feel could benefit from learning how to be more resilient or if you have special needs children that get easily frustrated and seem to give up trying easily, there is hope. Eirim is offering an important course on helping Build Resilience in Children, new for our 2018 training schedule. Please contact us if you’d like further information about this unique course. You can also learn more about it here and/or book to attend our next session.