A teacher and parent perspective on building resilience

On Wednesday 30 August, ELC teachers attended a Junior School staff meeting for a presentation on the importance of building resilience in children by Madhavi Nawana Parker. Her message is such an important one and as a teacher and parent I found myself immediately inspired and committed to trying some of her suggestions and tips.

Madhavi began by discussing some of the challenges we face as parents and teachers in today’s society. Building resilience is imperative for young children. She talked about many of the problems in society and families lives today being very different to those that we grew up experiencing. Today children are often being ‘over parented’ and technology is addictive resulting in children seeking constant feedback and stimulation.

Madhavi discussed recent research showing that resilience is lower than ever before. She talked about children missing out on learning the basic life skills and therefore not being given the opportunity to develop their resilience and problem solving skills. Madhavi went on to further explain the impact of addiction to technology and over parenting is having on children. By doing everything for them, letting them have it all and constantly wanting them to succeed we are creating helplessness in children. This can further develop into depression and anxiety. She says it’s ok to say ‘No’ to children and at times let them struggle. If we arm children with the skills to cope then they will feel competent which aides in the building of resilience.

She talked about how often as parents we do so much for our children and want them to be happy and always successful; ‘winners’! Children are not being allowed to experience emotions such as disappointment, frustration, boredom or discomfort and are therefore not developing the problem solving skills necessary to enable resilience. As parents and teachers we need to understand the importance of not always stepping in to do or rescue them. She recommended validating their feelings and allowing them the opportunity to feel and experience them. “Empathise rather than fix the feeling”. This will help encourage them to accept, move on and solve the problem themselves. Often we forget how important it is to arm them with life skills, morals and values. She discussed the importance of allowing children to be bored, “Boredom is where creativity, innovation and problem solving is developed.”

Madhavi reminded us how important it is to encourage rather than praise. Focus on the child’s effort and process not the end product. In the ELC we encourage children to assess their work by asking them open questions rather than judging or praising their work.

With this in mind I also began to make connections with our learning environment in the ELC and what we value and encourage. We encourage and support the children to become independent. Our routines are designed to allow children to take ownership and become responsible for their jobs and belongings. We support persistence and problem solving and our programs allow for children to follow their interests and learn through experimenting and trial and error. We view the children as capable learners who take part in designing and creating their own learning spaces, allowing for risk taking and risk management. All of these examples aid in promoting the development and building of resilience in young children.

I have to be honest…. I was horrified driving home thinking about all I do for my own children! Yes sometimes it’s easier and quicker to do it myself but in the long run they will benefit from taking control and doing it themselves. The next morning my children were slightly shocked as I explained the importance of organising their own lunches and bags and making sure they take responsibility for what they needed that day.

It was refreshing to hear from other ELC parents that I wasn’t alone!

Bettina Abram

ELC Teacher