Supporting resilience in students

Issue: Volume 97, Number 15

Posted: 23 August 2018
Reference #: 1H9kCk

A clinical psychologist from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service discusses the importance of resilience for young people, and how teachers can help.

Resilience is the capacity to recover from challenges or difficulties and continue to move forward. Although resilient people experience difficulties like everyone else, they are able to adapt and change paths to find a solution, instead of feeling defeated.

Bridget Young is a clinical psychologist from the Capital & Coast District Health Board’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. She works with young people and their families to help them develop the skills to become more resilient.

Bridget says resilience can protect people from developing mental health difficulties by giving them the skills to adapt and gain confidence by persevering through hardship.

“Resilience is super important because it is what allows us to push ourselves when we might think something is too overwhelming. Knowing we can work through something, and that even if it fails that we will be ok, provides us with the opportunity to engage in different situations that can help us learn and provide us with a great deal of enjoyment.”

Factors such as personality and environment can influence a young person’s level of resilience. This includes how they regulate their emotions, how they view failure and whether they have strong, positive connections to adults in their life.

Teachers can support resilience by fostering caring relationships with their students and by modelling resilient behaviour themselves.

A key aspect of resilient behaviour is to focus on effort instead of achievement and to reframe failure when it occurs.

“Look at what someone can learn from failure and what they need to do differently. We have all failed at different times and as adults we know it is not that big a deal, but for kids it feels catastrophic. We see kids as young as intermediate age that think failing a test now will result in a doomed future,” says Bridget.

It is also important to make sure any goals set for students, or that they set for themselves, are realistic so they are not constantly failing.

Another way to foster resilience is to teach students how to problem solve rather than providing answers in the first instance.

“Get them to generate possible solutions, weigh up the pros and cons of each, and then chose the best solution for them. If it doesn’t work out, then they will have a range of other options to try.”

Research has also shown that regularly practising mindfulness strengthens the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain used when problem solving, says Bridget.

Creating caring connections with students is important because not every young person comes from a supportive or resilient family, so their chances of developing resilience are greater if they have other supportive adults in their lives.

“We all need support at different times in our lives, no matter how old we are. For kids, they are learning to navigate the world and do not have the knowledge or life experience to manage many of the challenges that come up,” says Bridget.

“If children know there are people behind them should they need it, they will feel safe and secure about trying new things and pushing themselves, which gives them the opportunity to build resilience and grow into successful adults.”

PB4L School-Wide Tier One and PB4L Restorative Practice support schools to promote positive behaviour and create inclusive learning environments that foster wellbeing and achievement for all children and young people. There is an emphasis on building and maintaining positive, respectful relationships across the school community. PB4L(external link) offers school staff best practice tools and techniques to promote positive behaviour and wellbeing and restore relationships when things go wrong.

The FRIENDS programmes have been used in some New Zealand schools to support the Health and Physical Education curriculum. This programme builds resilience by teaching children to understand emotions as well as generate solutions and practice mindfulness. Schools can now access the FRIENDS programmes through an online portal(external link). Access to the portal and training is free until the end of 2018.

The New Zealand Health Education Association (NZHEA) has recently published a senior secondary teaching resource Mental Health and Resilience: Teaching and learning activities for NZC Levels 6-8. This is a curriculum resource that shows how the Health and PE underlying concepts are used to construct health education knowledge across The New Zealand Curriculum. It also links to NCEA achievement standards.

Find out more about mental health and resilience(external link) 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:10 am, 23 August 2018

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