Thursday, 31 December 2015

The importance of resilience.

As an avid coffee drinker, I often think of some post as brewing or percolating long before they are published. Sometimes I can write a post & publish it immediately and other times I write it & rewrite it over an over in my head before I manage to actually type it up. I woke up the other day with a post in my head about resilience and as I got ready to write it I checked out what was happening on Twitter and discovered another colleague had just published a post on the same topic!! I have included a link to Pamela's post here:
So, what are my thoughts on resilience? I firmly believe that it is one of the key qualities that should be taught in school - especially in the early years. If a child has resilience they will be able to cope with whatever life throws at them without it crippling them. 
I think that self-esteem and resilience are complimentary but not necessarily both needed in equal quantities. 
I think that resilience is best built up outdoors where young children learn to fall and get up again, to fail at certain tasks but to keep trying again and again but primarily thought play. Resilience takes time and practice and will not develop overnight, I have talked before about how young children will complete a puzzle only to tip it out again and again until they can do it in minutes with no help at all - repetition is how we all learn but sadly I think many adults don't get the same opportunities for repetition.
A few years ago I took part in a 'Pay it Forward' with other preschools around the globe and my class received a package from Ayn of Little Illuminations - in the package were 2 Pete the Cat books. Little did I know how these books would become such a firm favourite with my class every year and that these are a great book for 'teaching' resilience. On non-uniform days some children will appear in white tights and invariably they will fall in a muddy puddle in the playground. Before they begin to cry at the sight of their previously pristine tights I will remind them of Pete the cat & his white shoes - they then usually laugh and begin to sing 'I love my muddy tights'!! 
Unfortunately as long as our education system focuses on results  and grades rather than skills more and more children will learn to give up at the first hurdle. How many of us dropped a subject at secondary level because we knew we wouldn't get a good grade it in? 
I like that our preschool curriculum in N.I mentions perserverance as a skill - this is something that will always help later in life too.
Whilst children need resilience it is actually as adults that we probably encounter more obstacles and this skill comes into play. It's what makes some of us laugh during particularly hard times and know that it will pass and it's not the worst thing that can happen. This September we had 2 children stung by wasps and for one poor child it was on his very first day of nursery. His resilience ensured he was able to come back the next day and go outside whilst many would have refused to come back and we most certainly were prepared for him not wanting to go outside. A few weeks later and another child was stung again, as he cried he kept saying 'When will it stop hurting?' - he already knew it was temporary and his resilience allowed him to concentrate on his pain free future. 
So for 2016 I will continue to encourage the children in my class to keep on trying again and again and accept that things won't always go according to plan but that the world will keep on turning regardless!


  1. Hi Kierna, I could not agree with you more. However, I am trying to figure out the difference between encouraging resilience and "toughing the kid up." One of the differences might be the situations adult put children in to "buck up." Or maybe some adults end up shaming and denying children's actual feelings so they will be "strong." Just wondering. Tom

    1. Hi Tom, great question & I agree many confuse resilience with toughening up, it's not ok to teach children to suppress feelings but we do need to help them realise that as bad as it may seem, it will get easier. I also worry about that whole culture of 'big boys don't cry' that has raised a generation unable to actually express their emotions in a healthy way.


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