As we shift into thinking about a new school year, you may be feeling more hopeful than at this point last year. You also may be feeling uncomfortable with not knowing exactly what school will look like and how your children will cope. The word “resilience” has come up a lot in conversations about life following COVID. Resilience has been defined as “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Resilience is not something that we are born with. It is something that develops over time through our experiences, the world around us, our families and our own traits and skills.
Would you consider yourself to be resilient? What about your children? What makes some people more resilient than others? How can I support my children to become more resilient?
These are all questions that challenge us to look at our interactions and wellbeing from a different perspective. Resilience is when a person can not only bounce back following stress or change, but they have also learned from the experience and can “bounce back better.” They are then more likely able to cope with the next stressor that comes along.
So how does one “build resilience?” The good news is that there are a number of ways that have been suggested, and that building one’s “toolbox” and nurturing resilience is something that can be done at any age. We know that we cannot take away challenges that our children will face and that some will face more than others, but if we can tip the scales with skills and support, then our children are more likely to flourish.
All articles about resilience point to how important it is for children to have supportive adults in their lives. This can be a parent, caregiver, grandparent or other adult. Guiding children through challenges is not always easy, and it is a daily practice in how we speak to children and help them see their own strengths.
Some of you may be familiar with Growth Mindset and it is a concept that is supported by teachers. Basically, it is the idea that brains are developing and able to grow. The language with Growth Mindset is similar to reframing, or learning to think about things in different ways. It is helping children to know that where they are today does not have to be where they are tomorrow. Abilities can grow when we work through challenges, just as how we feel about ourselves will grow through the positive stories that we collect about ourselves.
Children learn this language and about their unique abilities from the caring adults around them. You can help them to reframe difficult experiences as growing and learning opportunities and not as something to halt them in their path toward a bright future.
Not all stress is bad, but too much of it can take a toll on health and wellbeing. Stress is contagious. Your children will know and feel your stress. For your children and yourself, try to reduce stress as much as possible. Children will take your lead in learning how to deal with stress in positive ways. Self care is talked about a lot but simply put, it is about taking care of yourself and giving yourself a break when you need it. Try building in caring routines during this back-to-school time for yourself and your children. Get plenty of sleep, practice gratitude, get active every day and most importantly, find fun and laughter as often as possible.
It is also very important to know when to reach out for help. If the stress is too great for you to deal with on your own, reach out for support. Check Islandhealth.ca to find out about mental health services.
The importance of connection with family, friends and loved ones is recognized now more than ever. The ways in which we connect have been very different since the beginning of the pandemic but people have found creative ways to maintain relationships. There are many ways to tell and show someone that you care. There is no end to the ideas that you can find online!
Other essential connections are those with nature and with cultural practices and traditions. Research is now telling us that our connection to nature can make us happier and healthier. This is for people of all ages. For children, more teachers are building in outdoor learning and more schools have school gardens. The walk or ride to and from school can also be a chance to interact with nature, watch the changing of the seasons, notice the birds and bugs; just remember to prepare for all weather.
Cultural connections for children give them a sense of self and a knowledge of where they come from and where they belong. Nurture that connection at home and find out how you can share it in school. Language, food, arts and celebrations are all wonderful learning connections for classes of students. Ask the teachers how you can support the learning.
As we move into another school year, let’s all support our children and one another so that the stamp of COVID only brings about positive change and a brighter future for all our children.
What You Think—and Say—is Crucial for Your Child’s Life “Reframing” could help your child become happier and more resilient: psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-danish-way/201806/what-you-think-and-say-is-crucial-your-childs-life
How to Help Families and Staff Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Outbreak: developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/how-to-help-families-and-staff-build-resilience-during-the-covid-19-outbreak
Raising Resilient Children and Youth: camh.ca/en/health-info/guides-and-publications/raising-resilient-children