Have you ever seen a child try to do something they've never done before and just give up because they fail and it just seems all too hard? Only to watch their friend do the same thing, also fail but then try again, sometimes several times, until they get it right. I think we can all relate to this if you cast your mind back to when you were learning to ski or ride a bike for the first time, sometimes it's difficult to find the desire to push on and this drive to push on is what is known as resilience.
So how do we teach children to develop such a valuable ability in this digital age?
But first, what is resilience?
Resilience is our ability to manage the challenges and setbacks that come with life and then return from this adversity to normal or better yet, stronger for the experience.
It isn’t an inherent character trait but rather a response to adversity which draws upon the strength of several social emotional skills to be achieved. According to this Literature Review of 1,979 studies it was concluded:
“There appears to be a range of factors that may contribute to resilience in children across different social ecological domains. At an individual level, factors such as emotion regulation, cognitive skills, empathy or a positive outlook have been associated with resilient outcomes.”
These determinants of resilient outcomes are learnable, particularly in children of primary school age, as their brains are rapidly developing and growing - which makes taking onboard information easier. Resilience has always been an important ability to teach children and adolescents to be able to cope in day to day life. However, the digital age has introduced a whole new set of challenges reinforcing why we need to teach the skills for building resilience in young children, and how to reduce the impact of negative online interactions.
The Growing Importance of Teaching The Skills For Resilience
Throughout the 21st century to date, we have seen an unprecedented and exponential growth in information and how it’s delivered to anyone with access to the internet, which in Australia, is 88% of the population. This has fast-tracked children’s learning and development significantly and provided enormous career opportunities which didn’t exist even 15 years ago. The internet provides children with many opportunities, yet it does not come without risks.
It is clear with the improvement in access to the internet and technology, the potential presence of online bullying grows equally. Therefore, education must exist around developing the social, emotional and physical skills to improve resilient outcomes and wellbeing among young internet users.
Aside from reducing the impact of cyber-bullying, children (and adults) need resilience for overcoming internal challenges as well as to support their goals and outlook for the future.
Resilient outcomes are reliant on these 3 core skills:
- Effective Self-Management/Self-Regulation
- Strong Relationship Skills
- Developed Social Awareness
By improving these skills in children, they can better cope with any negative interactions online, whilst not affecting their ability to expand their understanding and knowledge of ICT literacy - a subject which is recognised as being another key 'skill for 21st century learners' by the World Economic Forum.
So, where do you start with improving resilience in children?
By implementing evidence-based and curriculum-aligned programs in schools, students form a foundation of skills needed from a young age to be resilient and manage challenges typically faced later in adolescence. By then reinforcing this language and education at home, families can give children the best possible opportunity to form resilient outcomes.
From a rhetoric perspective, it’s also important to break down the narrative which might suggest resilience is an inherent character trait. As it is indeed something that needs to be taught, through education of the underlying skills, on a community level as well as an individual level.