Coping with the return to school and raising resilient children

 

by Nicole Soames (Educational Psychologist, Bishops Pre-Prep)

Returning to school after being in Lockdown for many weeks can be an unsettling experience for some of our children. School as we once knew it is very different. How we adapt to change such as this sheds light on our ability to be resilient in the face of uncertainty, which is very valuable considering the times we find ourselves in. This is something that we can share and foster in our children so that they respond to change positively and use any stumbling blocks as opportunities to grow.

What are the characteristics of resilient children?

As we continue throughout life, it is unlikely that each day will be successful and go according to plan. At some point, we will all be faced with a stressful or challenging situation. The ability to bounce back from and view such a challenge as a lesson instead of a failure requires us to be resilient. From my experience, children who are resilient may display several different characteristics.

  • Resilient children are competent and in addition to this, they are confident in their abilities. Resilient children seem willing to try new tasks or activities, despite whether they have done them before. Thus, they feel confident enough to step out of their comfort zone and take a risk at developing a new skill. They have some understanding that if they fail, they can always try again next time, instead of dwelling on any insecurity they may feel from failing.
  • Resilient children exhibit a growth mindset whereby they do not become overwhelmed by disappointments and failures, but instead learn from the previous experience and persevere to try again until they have mastered what it is they are doing.
  • Having appropriate coping strategies and stress management skills assists resilient children with self-regulation in such situations.
  • These children appear to have the ability to separate the failure or mistake from themselves, knowing that any setback is not a reflection of who they are. They are able, therefore, to develop more self-awareness in the process.
  • Resilient children may become more open to learning new skills, engaging with new people and situations. This positive outlook not only on life, but for trying new things and learning from previous experiences builds an inner motivation and optimistic thinking style, so that children can come up with creative solutions to solve problems.
  • Finally, resilient children appear to have strong, genuine connections with others. This may include, parents or caregivers, siblings, extended family members or even friends and teachers. Regardless of who the child feels such a connection with, they feel safe and reassured that they can face life’s challenges with the help and support from those around them. Such relationships and connections further promote a child’s self-efficacy and self-esteem. The above characteristics, among many others, are all examples of protective factors that enhance and promote resilience in children. 

How can parents develop resilience in their children?

  • In my experience parents can play an important role in fostering and promoting a child’s resilience. Having a warm, loving parent, caregiver, or family member that a child feels close to and who provides firm but gentle boundaries, can contribute to building their resilience. With such a relationship in place, children are likely to feel more open to their parents and know that they are supported when needed.
  • Teaching children to solve problems on their own first before relying on others to solve these problems for them is important. Problem-solving can be modelled to children by the adults around them, so they learn how to tackle different situations and identify what needs to be done to achieve their goals. Urging children to try and come up with their own solutions and asking questions to stimulate problem-solving can assist with such.
  • In addition, encouraging children to try new (age appropriate) tasks or activities can promote healthy risk-taking behavior, where children develop a feeling of being able to master new skills and strengths themselves. This sense of achievement of having successfully mastered an age appropriate task may encourage them to try more in the future.
  • Furthermore, embracing any mistakes as opportunities to talk about and importantly, for children to learn how to overcome them is necessary. This can also incorporate an optimistic thinking approach, where children learn that failures are not a reflection on who they are as a person and that they can learn from their mistakes for next time.
  • Developing copying skills and labelling emotions may be necessary for helping children regulate themselves and express their feelings appropriately when faced with failure.

Email nsoames@bishops.org.za