Written by Belinda Huang
“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.” – Unknown
What is resilience? It is the ability to face difficult situations head on, recover, and even grow as a person. Children learn resilience in their everyday life when they adapt to changes in rules, learn about hard topics like bullying or illness, or deal with family problems. If we can teach resilience, it will help our students live fulfilling lives even when times are tough.
In a modern world where over 30% of young adults have an anxiety disorder, it is important to help students develop resilience from an early age. How can we do that in the classroom? Here are five tips:
1.Show students how to change their perspective
One reason why children might struggle to process a life-changing event is that they can only see it from their own perspective. It can seem deeply unfair or impossible to deal with, especially as young people often can’t control everything in their lives. But if they can switch perspectives, think about how other people feel or consider the future benefit of a change, it is easier to come to terms with it. In class, try emphasizing the importance of thinking from multiple perspectives, whether it’s in reading comprehension or when settling an argument.
2. Make failure a learning opportunity
High-achieving students are often very anxious about the possibility of failure. As pressure increases in the years leading up to college admissions, even small academic setbacks can hurt self-esteem and trigger panic about the future. In these cases, it is important to frame a bad grade as a learning opportunity instead of a crisis. This is a chance to grow, not the end of the road. Give examples of other students or times when a bad situation turned out okay, while being sensitive to the specific feelings your student is having.
3. Encourage students to build support networks
Friendships, family, and the school community are all part of a student’s support network. If a student knows they have support on their side, they’ll have people to turn to for advice, comfort, and reassurance in a difficult time. A student without a support network is more vulnerable to hardship and might not recover as easily on their own. If you notice a student who is struggling, try to help them find support, whether it’s professionals, like-minded peers, or just a conversation with you as their teacher.
4. Model a confident, positive view of growth and confidence
We have learned a lot in recent years about the power of the growth mindset. When people believe they can’t improve or they aren’t good enough, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if something bad happens, it reinforces their negative view of themselves and they give up. But if children receive praise and constructive feedback, and the classroom focus is on effort more than performance (i.e. mindset more than grades), they can grow in ability and confidence. It’s this self-confidence that helps protect them from suffering and build resilience.
5. Let students develop their goals and purpose
Part of being resilient is knowing that, no matter what scary or uncomfortable happens, you have a path or passion you want to follow. Having goals provides a scaffolding of meaning to life that helps overcome indecision or hardship – it’s like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It brings fulfillment and builds resilience. Encourage your students to dream and find purpose and drive, keeping in mind the need to be realistic.
Resilience helps prepare students to face a complex and often frightening world with confidence and grace. It makes children better leaders, family members, students, and friends. Why not make building resilience part of your teaching this year?