This article on child resilience, compiled by Rachel Robertson, originally appeared in our November newsletter.
Purposefully developing a child’s naturally resilient tendencies will give him the essential life skills he needs to cope with challenges, adopt a positive perspective, and develop self-confidence and self-worth — all essential ingredients for happiness.
Experts on child resilience agree there are specific characteristics or elements of a child’s life that most contribute to their resilience. Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg (2006), a pediatrician and leading expert on child resilience, organizes these characteristics and elements into the 7Cs:
Competence: A child’s competence is built through opportunities to fully develop and master specific skills or strengths. This includes concrete skills like math, softball, reading, or piano and less concrete skills such as the ability to solve problems, be a good friend, or make thoughtful decisions.
Confidence: Children need to have a general belief in themselves and their abilities, believing that they are important and can make a positive difference and worthwhile contribution to the world.
Connection: Strong relationships serve as a safety net for all individuals, particularly children. When a child feels connected, she feels protected and is more likely to explore the world knowing that she has support when she needs it.
Character: Although the lines between right and wrong are still blurry in the early years, children are beginning to develop an internal moral code to guide them (for example, their focus on ‘fairness’) as they make increasingly complex decisions. Without a strong sense of character, children can’t define or develop their personal values.
Contribution: Having opportunities to make a positive impact are essential to children’s sense of worth, whether it be through gestures of compassion (hugging a tearful friend) or participating in activities that affect the larger community (participating in a trike-a-thon fundraiser or park clean-up).
Coping: Children need to develop internal coping responses that allow them to navigate challenges without turning to destructive behaviours or relying solely on others to help them through difficult times. Being able to understand and regulate their emotions is a critical life skill and one teachers should intentionally nurture.
Control: From their first assertive “NO!” young children declare their control over their own lives. Children need clear boundaries, predictable routines, and consistent caregivers (who behave in consistent ways) mixed with the ability to assert control when appropriate to develop a sense of their abilities and desire to feel in control of their lives.
The trouble is, to do these things often means going against natural caregiving instincts for teachers and parents. Consider this scene that we’ve all witnessed. A young child toddles or runs freely and then suddenly stumbles and falls. He immediately looks to the adult nearby for her reaction. Naturally, many of us would say, “Are you okay?” in a compassionate voice while offering hugs, band-aids, or healing kisses for unseen hurts while the child sobs. But in many cases, these words and actions are unnecessary and even unhelpful. Instead, we could respond with encouragement, “Yes, you fell, but you were walking so well. You can do it again!” Often a child in this scenario will just brush himself off and carry on playing. He will think, “If she thinks I’m okay, I guess I am.”
Apply this simple analogy to other situations and you’ll get an idea of what it takes to nurture child resilience. Basically what we’re talking about here is encouraging children to keep trying, to persevere, and to solve their own problems, all with our encouragement and support — rather than protecting them from natural disappointment and struggles. By protecting them, we teach them to rely on us; by encouraging and supporting them, we teach them how to rely on themselves.
The roots of lifelong happiness and resilience develop in early childhood and should be nurtured throughout children’s lives. We have only a short time with children. It is up to us to make each moment count and to help them so they can achieve the goal set forth for them as newborns, “To be happy.”
Global Montessori has been providing daycare, preschool and elementary in Langley and surrounding areas for the past 26 years. In addition to daycare programs, Global Montessori also provides before and after care for kindergarten and elementary children for parents who require the extra care.