Resilience and Kids
Resilience in its most general sense refers to the ability of an individual to cope with difficult situations in life or simply whatever life throws at you. It is a special quality and an adaptive skill that differs from person to person and situation to situation. Historical roots of resilience fall back to 1620’s where its meaning was “act of rebounding”. Here, the meaning is different. It's fascinating how the word resilience itself has crossed the hurdles of time and came to be used in today’s world with a new meaning and perspective. For so long you must have heard people using the word resilience and most prominently when they talk about their past experiences. Imagine how weird it would be to imagine a 4 year old telling about the hardships of getting out of his bed and going to look for her mother to ask for some food. Resilience is different for kids and the context in which they learn about a skill or an understanding for it. Childhood is a period of time when most of the things are acquired by practical experiences and what parents and the environment around teaches them. They see, grasp, process and then learn about it and make systematic perceptions about the world around them. It makes it even more fragile because how they will understand a concept or skill will determine how they will use it in future or how they will apply it in multiple situations. How does resilience develop in kids then? And what role will it play in a long term?. For children to ‘bounce back’ to their normal life after facing any difficult situation, it is important to know what can be a difficult situation.
The process of learning is a gradual process and it takes a good amount of time to establish a healthy presence of mind and manifestation in the behavior. Resilience is a quality that is more likely to come with correct modelling and varied experiences in life. Kids in their early years of development, learn through observational learning and also through conditioning. What they see is important and at the same time what kind of experiences are being provided by the primary caregivers also plays an important role. The question here would be - how to teach them about resilience?. Well, there is no clear cut answer for it, but there can be few things that can be done.
Albert Bandura has already taught us a lot about observational learning. Children observe people around them behaving in different ways in different situations. They even imitate what they see. For them, that is the ultimate source of acquiring new behaviors. Resilience is a quality that cannot just be demonstrated or enacted, rather, it is developed from coming out of a negative situation and having dealt with the situation in an adaptive manner. In a stressful situation, it is important for the parents to deal with the situation in such a manner that is rational in nature. Also, it becomes necessary for parents to provide the children with positive and adaptive models that will help them in future. If they will see their parents or caregivers behaving in an aggressive manner, displacing it and projecting on other people or the kids, then it is more likely for the kids to learn that behavior from coping with the difficult situations. The coping skills developed in this situation would not present a healthy model for the kids and as a result, they won’t be able to learn from it, as the emotions attached with the difficult situations would be of anger and negativity.
Stories have been a key tool for people to teach kids about morals and behaviors that are more rational in nature. Stories represent different situations that can be difficult to deal with and situations which the kids don’t even know exist. Presenting stories with strong characters specifically showing resilience can be a good source of telling about resilience and at the same time promoting it. It can also help in exposing kids with a variety of new traits and skills which they did not know.
Children love to play outdoors, away from their home, out with their friends. Such an environment teaches kids to be independent and to deal with the hurdles imposed while playing with their friends. Playing time is very important for kids, as it allows them to be creative, try new things and undo undesirable events. It’s like when they are with other kids, they involve in brainstorming to come up with ways of dealing with the situation during that time. Not only they actively think about different ways, but they also learn from the other kids of the group. They learn to tackle the hurdles and that experiences remain there with them and guide them in future.
School environment and activities
School can be said to be the second home for children as they spend crucial developmental years in that environment. School imposes a lot of new situations with which kids have not dealt with in the past and it is for the first time that they get to deal with it on their own. Be it the pressure of exams, class presentations or other activities, they encourage children to deal with the situations on their own. This not only provides exposure to situations but also teaches them resilience and equips them with skills to deal with more stressing situations in future.
These situations might not be of any difficulty to other people, but for kids, issues come up for the first time with no prior experiences. This becomes a highlighting difference which creates different behaviors from different people and kids. A research paper by University of Minnesota reported that, resilience research indicates that, during the early childhood years, it is important for children to have good quality of care and opportunities for learning. Adequate nutrition and support from families is a must, to facilitate positive development of cognitive, social and self-regulation skills. It is also important to know that resilience in kids can make them independent and confident. It makes them more rational and prepares them to deal with day to day problems imposed by life without taking the help of others. It help develop a sense of achievement in kids, that they can do anything on their own and deal with different situations. Resilience is an ultimate source of boosting self esteem, enriching children with efficient problem solving skills and positive outlook towards life.