Advice Column, Parenting

Creating resilient children who can weather life’s challenges

“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” ~ Margaret Thatcher

We live in a dynamic world full of changes and challenges. These challenges often come unexpected and with full force, rocking our everyday life and putting it in turmoil. The usual approach to this will be adapt or die, or face the challenges and make the best of it. It is necessary to create resilient children and students that can weather life’s challenges, without drowning in the storm.

According to the Centre on the Developing Child at Harvard University, resilience is the ability to overcome serious hardship. Recent research has found that some children develop adequate resilience, while others do not, leaving them more vulnerable to long-term negative consequences from adversity. 

How can we ensure that the stress of moving, divorce, changing of school, changing in family-structure, does not overwhelm our students?

In literature there are different views and concepts to use in building the self-esteem of a student. One of the Global Competencies is Self-Management skills, and that is what we need to teach the students. Unfortunately teaching them is not enough, but we need to encourage them and provide tools so that they will be able to handle changes and challenges in the best way possible.

Strong, secure and responsive adult-child relationships. Merete Kropp, emphasised in the article, “Four ways to create resilient children”, that was published in the Washington post on 4 January 2018 that we must prioritize, build and maintain our relationship with our children by listening, talking and supporting them. We can provide them with enough time and space to develop self-regulation and executive function skills.

Cultivate self-awareness. Before you can ever hope to siphon strength from life’s many challenges, you need a good base of self-awareness from which to operate. Without this, you can easily think that everything which happens to you is someone else’s fault, bad luck, or a result of some other factor. Furthermore, that if only things would fall into place, you’d be fine.

Think of self-awareness as the foundation. According to Matt Valentine, in the article, “How to build resilience in the face of life’s challenges”, published on the website www.goalcoast.com on the 2nd of  February 2018, you will be able to see clearly and therefore aren’t fooled by bias or skewed perceptions. The way we look at challenges will determine whether we will find strength in it. With enough self-awareness we will be able to change our perspective. It is important to guide our students in obtaining the skill of self-awareness so that they can handle possible challenges.

Choices that allow a sense of control. When people are deprived of choices, they tend to feel powerless. Children are no exception. We strive to build reasonable levels of choice into our children’s lives by giving them agency over things they can control. We engage them and seek their input throughout the process of packing, saying goodbyes and beginning our new life, allowing them to make informed decisions whenever possible. The biggest concept is not only to learn them to make choices, but also to take responsibility for their choices. The saying “you live by your choices” is often used, but to learn children what it involves is of the utmost necessity.

Community connections. We encourage our children to connect with others and confide in trusted people (teachers, mentors, friends) before, during and after the move. 

At Abbotts College, adaption to a new school also mean to a different way of thinking. The system allows us to mentor and support students to face their challenges in the new environment and to be resilient and not overwhelmed.

We may not be able to raise our children in a protective bubble to shield them from all life’s hardships, but we are committed to equipping them with the positive protective factors they need to tip the resilience scale in their favour when they encounter inevitable difficulties in life.

Resilient children can be encouraged to become more resilient. And children who seem to have less resilience can be helped to develop it. All it takes is a little confidence and motivation. 

 

By Bridget Grobler, Accounting and Business Studies teacher at Abbotts College Centurion

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