The building blocks of resilience

Junior School Saturday, 01 Apr 2023

Resilience is a word that we hear quite often in the realm of parenting and schooling, but what does it mean?  In a broad sense, resilience is the ability for our young people to bounce back from adversity.  It is a child’s willingness to leave their comfort zones, seek new experiences and take safe and reasonable risks.  

Mrs Veronica Smith

Helena College believes that building resilience is something that schools need to work on in partnership with families.  From the lessons of winning and losing, how to manage their emotions, making mistakes and navigating friendships.  Resilience is just one of the areas that the Helena College social-emotional learning program looks at.  Designed by our  Junior School College Psychologist, Veronica Smith, we aim to work closely with parents to bring out the best in all our students. She has shared  some simple ideas that we as parents and educators can use to assist children in building their resilience.

Let them make mistakes. Mistakes are our opportunities for learning.  It is hard to watch children take a leap and land on their faces. However,  in terms of resilience, it is so valuable for them to learn that they can reach for something and fall and while it feels awful, they will be able to get through it.  Saying the words to them is valuable but it cannot top the learning that is gained through experience.

Don’t fight their battles for them. This is the process of picking your battles.  There are some situations where we as parents might need to step in and assist because it is beyond the capacity for a small person.  However, there are others where we need to trust our children and their ability to manage.  Our role is much more useful as a support role.  Give your kids the tools to manage a situation by themselves.  Let them try their wings and see what happens. 

Encourage children to talk about things that are bothering them. One of the easiest ways to do this is to work it into their routine.  If your kids are anything like mine, the minute you sit down and say “Let’s have a chat” the walls go up, the shutters come down and the words stop.  Much better to get in the habit of talking as a general part of their day so that they are used to communicating with you.  Car rides or cuddles before bed are great times to introduce the art of talking.  If you are talking about worries, particularly with those kids who tend to bottle up their feelings, ask them if they feel lighter or heavier than they did before they started talking about the worries.  With enough repetitions, they will make the link that when they talk about their worries, they feel better.

Explore negative thinking and re-frame their experiences. Check out how your child is making sense of themselves, others and the world.  Often negative thinking makes statements that are universal in response to a situation that is time limited.  For example, the situation may be that a child does poorly on one test and the rest of their results have been fine.  The negative statement might be ‘I am stupid’ and this statement is applied to every academic situation.  You might be able to correct the child by pointing out that this is one test and that while they didn’t do as well as they may have liked, they are not stupid.  Using evidence is our best weapon against negative thinking. Asking a gentle question ‘What is the evidence to support that thought?’ ‘What is the evidence that does not support that thought’ and assist them to find a balanced perspective.

Encourage them to take responsibility. Regardless of the situation, in any interaction or scenario there is a bit that we need to own and a bit that others need to own.  When something goes wrong in your child’s world, get them into the habit of reflecting upon the situation.  What were the bits in their control? What were the bits outside of their control?  What are the bits that they need to own and fix.  We can’t control the thoughts, feelings and actions of others but we can control our own actions or responses.

If you would like to know more about Helena College’s social-emotional learning program, we invite you to come along on one of our campus tours.