Raising Resilient Children
Published on: March 09, 2020
An Early Years teacher explains how the development of resilience in children will help them to face challenges right into adulthood.
By Kaitlin Swala
What is Resilience?
Whether you are three years old or 30 years old, all humans possess the ability to be resilient. However, the best time to learn resilience starts in the earliest years of life. All ages experience things that cause stress each day; it is what those stressors look like as we grow that changes. If children are not shown the proper tools to handle these challenges, they will not flourish when they face change. In Early Years education, little things like tripping and falling on the playground, saying goodbye to parents in the morning or the way lunch looks and tastes are all examples of challenges that young children face daily.
Learners show us they are resilient when they take over the ability to face life’s problems with confidence. They have the ability to overcome as well as to bounce back from these issues with ease and independence. If we want our children to approach daily challenges and change with a positive outlook, we should teach them to develop resilience. It’s important that we also allow ourselves as adults in their lives to let them take healthy risks and encourage meaningful new experiences. Building resilience comes from the proper development of social and emotional skills which include coping and self-soothing. By developing the skills associated with resilience, children learn to be happier and come to understand that they can cope with any of life’s challenges.
Why is it important?
Plain and simple, resilient children grow into resilient teens and then into resilient adults. Individuals that take control of resiliency see challenges and failures as opportunities to grow. They acknowledge difficult situations, learn from mistakes, solve problems with confidence and move forward with positivity. Resilient people are typically healthier and happier, experience lower levels of depression and enjoy greater success at school and work.¹
Studies show links between resilience in children and positive transitions into teenagers. Teens who were taught about resilience were more successful with their social relationships, managing their emotions as well as managing the stress of academic life. ²
It is important to provide all children with a healthy and supportive environment as they grow up and transition into adolescence as daily stress situations will inevitably change into different stressful situations. This will give them chances to embrace and conquer life challenges to develop mastery of critical life stressors and acquire “stress inoculation.”³
Results from these studies strongly indicate that key factors including positive family and school environments, supportive adults, self-discipline and cognitive ability, all contribute to a more successful transition to adulthood and more resilient functioning.
How do we grow resilience in the Early Years
There are three easy ways to help grow resilience in the early years that we as teachers use each day and also encourage parents to try at home: modeling resilience for your children, encouraging children to be socially and emotionally aware and encouraging independence and risk taking.
The easiest way for children to learn resilience is to be around positive examples of bouncing back from problems. If children have role models such as teachers and parents that embrace failure or mistakes and also show that they can bounce back from them then they will be able to cope with these issues.
The use of coping and calming strategies such as deep breathing can be an effective way to work through stress. Always label your emotions and talk through your own problem-solving process. Encourage your child to keep trying when a task is hard or frustrating. Use positive language about difficult tasks and encourage your child to see challenges as opportunities to develop new skills. If you are concerned about a new situation for your children, make sure to stay positive about it for yourself and your learner.
Approach tantrums and emotional outbursts as opportunities to learn and help your child to name all of the emotions they are feeling. Remind your children that their feelings (even anger) are important and valid. Taking the time to name those feelings can help them make sense of what they’re experiencing and why. Make sure to tell them that it is okay to feel anxious, sad, or jealous and that these powerful feelings will eventually pass. It is very important to catch any negative thoughts and feelings of embarrassment at a time of crying or having a tantrum in public. Your child’s behavior is not a reflection of your parenting. In Early Years education, we try to remind parents that tantrums, crying, and anger in children are age-appropriate and a good thing for others to see. It indicates that you are teaching your child the value of their feelings and demonstrating their development of emotional and behavioral regulation skills.
Healthy Risk Taking and Independence
We are constantly trying to express the importance to parents of the benefit of risk-taking and the valuable skills that children gain from taking them.
What is a healthy risk? Anything that pushes your child to try something outside of their comfort zone but results in very little harm if they are unsuccessful. Examples can include anything from trying a new food to starting a conversation with a new friend. Once they begin to try new things with encouragement and receive positive reinforcement for it, they will begin to take independent health risks. When young learners avoid taking risks they develop a fixed mindset with relation to risks and independence. They feel that they are not strong enough to handle challenges. When learners embrace risks they start to realize their strengths and abilities.
Children learn best from experience. Do not be afraid to let them express their independence within reason. As teachers and parents, we need to not only embrace resilience but we need to simultaneously grow and empower it. The early learners of today will be the catalysts of change for the future of our world. Now, more than ever, we need powerful and vibrant leaders of tomorrow.
- Raising Kids to Thrive, Ginsburg, 2015
- Building Resilience in Children and Teens, Ginsburg 2011
- Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges,Southwick and Charney, 2012
- Resilience in the transition to adulthood, Burt and Paysnick, 2012
Photos courtesy of the author.
About the Author
Kaitlin has been an Early Years teacher since 2011. She has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood from Carlow University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She has worked at KIS International School in Bangkok for four years as an EY1 (3-4 yo) Homeroom teacher and EY Coordinator. She is originally from Pittsburgh, PA, USA where she worked in Pittsburgh Public Schools. For more information about KIS International School, please visit www.kis.ac.th or email email@example.com.
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