Do you consider yourself to be resilient? Can you bounce back from failure, dust yourself off and power on? The good news is that research shows resilience can be learned, and children are learning how to cope with failure from the adults in their life, both at home and at school.
In its simplest form, resilience describes something that reverts to its original state after it has been bent or stretched – and we're not talking about yoga. Being resilient doesn't mean that you don't experience hardship or feel stressed, it just means that you are able to recover.
Being resilient is an important life skill for coping with 'busyness', unexpected events and perceived failure. We need to teach our children to 'bounce back' and, most importantly, try again. We go through this process when we learn to ride a bike – it's as natural as breathing – but as adolescence strikes, girls especially can develop a fear of failure that can stay with them their whole lives. They don't want to disappoint or be ridiculed.
Vice Principal of Wellbeing at Mentone Girls' Grammar School, Mrs Jo Frost, says the environment we create around children is key for building resilience. "The environment we create at school is about getting girls to try new things and experiment with the risk of failure, and supporting each other in the process. It is vital that we remind girls that failing is simply an essential part of learning and living – it's human."
Parents and teachers can help by being positive role models and demonstrating resilient behaviours themselves. Here are seven ways to build resilience in children:
1. Avoid solving all their problems. Make kids active participants in family/group problem-solving.
2. Model a positive 'you can do it' attitude, encouraging them to take decisive action rather than detaching from problems, and wishing they would just go away. See every experience as an opportunity.
3. Encourage them to build relationships with others that offer mutual support.
4. Embrace Change. Accept that change is a part of living. Flexibility is an essential part of resilience so teach them how to be more adaptable.
5. Move toward goals. Develop realistic goals and make small yet regular progress towards accomplishing these.
6. Be optimistic. Get them to try visualising what they want from themselves, rather than worrying about what they fear.
7. Be responsible for their own wellbeing. Teach them to listen to their own mind and body, to know when they need to engage in some relaxation, to eat nutritious food and exercise regularly. Feeling energetic and healthy helps to keep them primed to deal with tough situations.
At Mentone Girls' Grammar School, all students in the Senior School complete a resilience survey. Teachers use the results to build on current programs, further support the girls in learning new skills, and promote characteristics which increase their resilience. This assists them to be aware of their own wellbeing needs and, arms them with the confidence to take risks and be proactive.
Mentone Girls' Grammar's extensive wellbeing program includes a whole school approach to Mindfulness and encourages positive education, leadership and service.
So, it's never too late to make a conscious effort to model positive behaviours around resilience with your children, and you never know, you might reap the benefits too.