Building resilience in early learners

Edith Grotberg, from the International Resilience Project says, “Resilience is important because it is the human capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by, or even transformed by the adversities of life. Everyone faces adversities; no one is exempt. With resilience, children can triumph over trauma; with out it, adversity triumphs.” (Grotberg 1995)

On entering our ELC Rectory Program, we begin the “formal” educational journey, supporting each child’s learning socially, emotionally, physically, cognitively and spiritually. One important responsibility of Early Childhood Education is to support each child’s development with emotional resilience. We believe and know that fostering resilience development and wellbeing is vital for empowering children with skills and strategies for positive future learning and life. Research has shown that a child’s early learning experiences can influence long term life chances, positivity and wellbeing, and a strong sense of connection, optimism, problem-solving skills and engagement enables children to develop a positive attitude with life’s learning challenges. Resilience is the group of skills and qualities that lead children to be able to cope with life’s difficulties in a proactive way. And then to bounce back.

In our 3 year old learning environment, daily challenges and learning opportunities that can strengthen and build resilience are experiences such as; separating from family at drop off, putting shoes on independently, turning a tap on or off independently, taking responsibility for belongings, sharing with others, making new friends, collaborating in play experiences, coping with changes to the daily learning routine, coping with group dynamics in different sessions, and independently toileting. Each child is an individual, and the challenges they face with resilience growth and learning will depend on their temperament, their previous experience with risk-taking and independence skills, but ultimately, how they are guided and supported with resilience development is the key. It is vital for educators, in partnership with parents, to positively support and prepare children, so they can take daily risks and try new learning challenges – let them have a go and take guided risks to grow.

In our ELC, we believe that early resilience intervention leads to more positive learning outcomes for children. By focusing on resilience, we can make a crucial contribution to children’s ongoing success and wellbeing – we want to give children strengths and skills to cope in, and with, their world.

Through daily interactions, we want children to know we believe in them as learners, and daily relationship building is a very important focus of our learning day to facilitate resilience.

It is so important for children to have hope and to know that there is a way through when they experience difficulties and adversity – a positive outlook and the skills to have a go at life’s challenges is vital. In partnership with parents we can all build resilience; children must be able to adapt to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or sources of stress — we can support our children to manage stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

In the words of “Pete Persistence,” a Program Achieve character puppet that we use to support wellbeing and skill development, his resilience and persistence mantra is clear – ”Keep on going…keep on trying…even if it gets tricky.” Pretty much says it all.

Penny Kerr
ELC Teacher