Let’s be honest. School, today, is pretty much comparable to surviving a war.
Children of this modern age are constantly facing the heavy artillery of the new social norms – and they don’t know how to deal with it. It is only going to become an internal World War 3 if they don’t possess resilient armour.
Being resilient means that you know how to cope when you are faced with obstacles; that no matter what the circumstances, you will push past your limits to succeed. Resilience is very often defined as simply having emotional strength. It is also a very prevalent issue in society – children are seemingly not as resilient as they used to be.
Lacking resilience can, and will, manifest itself in everyday life. And where does a child spend most of his or her everyday life? School. A child who is not resilient tends to perceive any stressful event as incredibly traumatic. On the other hand, a child who uses resilience will see stressful events as learning opportunities. Stress can never be avoided, so finding a resilient way to deal with it is imperative.
As an educator, I can immediately identify a learner who is not resilient. These learners cannot cope independently, show initiative or think critically. The major catch – those are the three life lessons for surviving ‘The Battle of the Classroom’. Just last week, a learner approached me and stated, ‘In an exam, the questions are not the same as the ones in our textbooks; how then are we supposed to know what to answer?’ Simple – apply your resilience to understanding and developing your own thoughts, based on your acquired knowledge.
A resilient learner (and this actually comes directly from a group of learners I see as resilient) is defined by these characteristics:
- Not giving up too easily.
- Eager and enthusiastic.
- Manages time effectively.
- Persistent and determined.
- Optimistic and passionate.
These traits need not be inherent; being resilient can become a strength to a child who might not possess it naturally. The bottom line – being resilient is the arsenal your child needs to fire those academic shots. Without this resilient armour, learners will be left vulnerable and they will decrease their effort as an attempt to protect themselves.
Fostering resilience will ensure that your child is willing to learn, able to accept help and feedback, persevere when a concept is not easy to grasp and place in as much effort as possible. This means that resilient children are always going to work towards goals and not rest on their laurels – or on their computers constantly playing Fortnite.
So what can you tell your child to foster new levels, or a completely new vision, of resilience in their lives? The tips below are by no means a militant checklist, but these shrapnels of advice do come straight from teachers (I should know; I am one). Encourage your child to live out these principles and make it habitual. Not only will your child begin to succeed, but learn how to pick up and move on after a setback.
Face your failures
Keep perspective – failure is essential to learn. Let your child know that by failing, you learn what not to do. Failure is honestly not the end of the road. It is the start of a better understanding and an opportunity to grow. It might sound a little ‘quote of the day’, but failure is an obstacle; obstacles are meant to be overcome. Resilient learners will not stop trying simply because a stumbling block was placed in front of them. Instead, they will now be able to identify what they don’t know and fix the problem.
Practice makes perfect
It surprises me when learners think that one attempt should ensure success. There’s a preconceived notion that ‘clever’ kids just ‘get it’. This is not true. If a skill is not practised, it will never develop to its full potential. This is why YOUR CHILD MUST DO HOMEWORK. Homework is the opportunity to practise, practise, practise. It also allows learners to realise where they may still need extra explanations for understanding. Encourage them to realise where more help is needed before writing an exam, so that there is still an opportunity to ask for assistance (WorksheetCloud is a great way to do this! Our all-in-one revision and studying tool helps children identify learning gaps and fill them. Try it out here!). But, don’t let your child wait for homework. If no specific task has been allocated, ensure that they consolidate and read over the day’s work and notes.
Find a mentor
No-one likes to do things alone. Help your child find someone who is willing to develop him or her on the journey to resilience. This could be a teacher, you as a parent, an older sibling, a guidance counsellor or even a peer. If children surround themselves with these like-minded individuals, it will keep them on track and accountable. It also means that they can forge social connections while gaining life-skills. No man is an island, and no resilient learner hides in the shadows.
The key to resilience is purpose. If your child is trying to work towards something, it means that they will always move forward. Motivate your child to set a goal at the start of the year for an overall percentage; however, use micro-goals each term as steps toward achievement. These smaller goals will allow your child to remain realistic and work consistently. Get your child to understand that if you aim for nothing, you will miss everything.
There is not an individual on this earth who can avoid change. It is inevitable. The only constant in this world is change. A resilient learner adapts quickly and sources opportunities to deal with change. This could be an exam timetable change, a new teacher or even a classroom space. Motivate your child to see change as a benefit – maybe something new can be gained that would never have been learned otherwise.
Make an effort
We live in an age where children are too used to being rewarded for participation or attendance. This is a difficult reality. A resilient learner does not expect to be praised for something that is expected. A resilient learner understands that in order to achieve, EFFORT is key. Effort is defined as vigorous and determined action – it means that an intensity in what you do is required. Instill in your child the belief that you reap what you sow; plant seeds of effort and watch your success grow.
Not a day goes by when we aren’t faced with some type of challenge (note how I say ‘challenge’ and not ‘problem’). It might be opening the peanut butter jar in the morning or passing a Maths exam, but either way there is a solution. If your child works at solving an issue rather than sitting back and moaning about it, then he or she is using resilience. Instruct that your child listens to the Maths teacher, does Maths homework, attends an extra Math class and studies – these are solutions of which we are fully aware; yet sometimes we take the easy way out and rather complain. By the way, if you place said impossible-to-open peanut butter jar under a tap of running, hot water – your challenge is over.
A positive attitude is a coping mechanism. It brings optimism into one’s life and eliminates stress and negativity to a large extent. Positive thinking literally makes you healthier. Incorporate this value into the life of your child; it will mean that they view their tasks at school as accessible and that they take on the process in a way that keeps them feeling at ease. Stress becomes manageable when they do not allow a space for negativity, but rather motivation. As the singer, Sia, says, ‘You’re never fully dressed without a smile’.
Celebrate your successes
When your child reaches a goal, celebrate! It will make them look forward to reaching the next one. Allow your child to eat some cake, go to the movies with a friend, post their success story on Instagram or take a photo and send it to Granny! Whatever you do, allow your child the space to feel good about success. Celebrating increases morale and will motivate your child to strive for even more.
At the end of the day, ask that your son or daughter reflect on how their actions have made them more resilient or how they can become even more resilient. Being aware of what you do and why you do it will help you to gain insight about yourself and your future responses to situations – and you want your child to understand this perspective. Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
To sum up resilience in a word: ‘Try’. And if all else fails, remember to inspire your child with this mantra: The comeback is always greater than the setback.
I’m very interested to hear how you help your child build resilience. Post your comments, suggestions and questions below. I personally read and answer every comment.