Resilience in Children
Resilience in Children
Resilience is how a child can cope with the good and the bad things in their life and the ability to succeed and prosper even after facing set and hardships and is based on self-esteem. The more resilience a child is the better they are able to cope with real life situations in their life right up to adult hood and have a more positive attitude.
In a paper by Action for Children, it states that resilience concerns the ability to ‘bounce back’. It involves doing well against the odds, coping, and recovering (Rutter, 1985; Stein, 2005). Masten et al (1990) define resilience as “the process of, capacity for, or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenging or threatening circumstances”. As a concept it appears to be cross-culturally recognised (Hunter, 2001).
Masten et al (1990) have identified three kinds of resilience among groups of children. These are:
• Children who do not succumb to adversities, despite their high-risk status, for example babies of low birth-weight.
• Children who develop coping strategies in situations of chronic stress, for example the children of drug-using or alcoholic parents.
• Children who have suffered extreme trauma, for example through disasters, sudden loss of a close relative, or abuse, and who have recovered and prospered.
Resilient children, therefore, are those who resist adversity, manage to cope with uncertainly and are able to recover successfully from trauma (Newman, 2004).
Some of the processes that are thought to play a part in promoting resilience include managed exposure to risk, since this can provide an opportunity for coping mechanisms to be acquired; opportunities to exert agency and develop a sense of mastery; strong relationships with supportive parents or cares, or external mentors and other social networks; positive school experiences and extra-curricular activities; and capacity to ‘reframe’ adversities (Newman, 2004). I ensure that in my setting the staff are given the skills necessary and the knowledge to promote resilience in the children we care for.
Assertiveness is a healthy way of communicating. It’s the ability to speak up for ourselves in a way that is honest and respectful. We promote this in my setting as a child who demonstrates assertiveness will be more likely to ask for help only when they need it. e.g. if a child asked for help doing a jig-saw they know what exactly they want when asking for help. They are also more likely to get on with the task once the initial difficulty has been overcome and they have been successful and will learn from that.
Healthy self-esteem is like a child’s armour against the challenges of the world. Kids who know their strengths and weaknesses and feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. If a child is self confident within themselves and doesn’t show fear when trying new things e.g. climbing up the steps of a slide. However, the staff need to be aware of risk and the child’s capabilities and be sure that they are not hampering the child’s confidence by perhaps refusing to allow them to take a risk due to age etc.
Self-awareness and the ability to socialise and behave appropriately in different situations and is confident about themselves usually reveals a healthy well-being and resilience. Children with low self-esteem may not want to try new things and may speak negatively about themselves: “I’m stupid,” They may have a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over. They tend to be overly critical of and easily disappointed in themselves.
One example of an approach we use in my setting to help build resilience is based on the Attachment theory. John Bowlby emphasises the importance of early relationships and quality of care for laying the foundations for healthy relationships and self-esteem in adulthood. Interventions based around attachment theory help to develop parental awareness and sensitivity to their child. Sensitive, available and consistent child care practices protect children by establishing positive expectations about future relationships and a positive view of self, which influence adaptive coping in later years (Sroufe et al, 1990). My setting provides this through a key-worker system, ensuring on-going and effective communication and working in partnership with the parents.
Daniel and Wassell (2002). They describe resilience in terms of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The intrinsic factors are seen as three building blocks that are necessary for resilience:
• A secure base – the child feels a sense of belonging and security
• Good self-esteem – an internal sense of worth and competence
• A sense of self-efficacy – a sense of mastery and control, along with an accurate understanding of personal strengths and limitations.
The extrinsic factors are described as:
• At least one secure attachment relationship
• Access to wider supports such as extended family and friends
• Positive nursery, school and or community experiences
This framework provides a useful basis for informing assessment of children, and planning and implementing interventions to promote resilience.
In my setting I give the children lots of praise and encouragement throughout the day to encourage their confidence and self esteem. If I praise the children they feel good and happy about themselves, hence building their self esteem. I would give the children small challenges that I know that they can succeed in to help build their confidence and self esteem e.g. jigsaw puzzle then I would give them tasks that they will need a little help to complete the task but I will sit down beside them and help and encourage them to complete it. Once completed, the children feel very proud of themselves. Praise gives children confidence and self esteem and having good confidence and self esteem shows a child has good resilience.
I would support and reassure a child when they feel scared e.g. starting in my room for their first time away from their parents. Would reassure then by cuddling them, telling them its okay, distracting them with toys they enjoy playing with at home. If a child makes a bond and trusts the adults in the room they will feel more confident and comfortable. I let the children take risks as this teaches them their boundaries in what they can do and what they cant do. I also let the children play independently by letting them pick what they want to play with to build their interest and their own self-identity. If the children knows what they like and are interested in they will be very confident with themselves.
During circle time is a great opportunity for helping children learn new ways of how to protect themselves. On activity we do is to get the children to make faces of happy or sad and ask them in circle time to pick a face and ask why or just discuss when they would be happy or sad and what they can do to change this. This also helps develop awareness of emotions and empathy for others.
Helping children protect themselves from child abuse is easier when you begin teaching protection techniques at an early age. It is important to build effective forms of communication with the children by developing relationships and building trust. This circle time activity helps the children to feel comfortable about talking about feelings and emotions. This helps build trust between me and the child and a feeling of comfort in knowing I, or the staff are approachable if something is worrying them
I am currently in the process of liaising with the NSPCC about the validity of using imaginative/role play as a forum for exploring what to do in certain situations – example – Run, Yell and tell or the Underwear Rule. I also think the Play Safe is a good simple approach for the older children in my setting, “Playing with friends is fun, but its no fun if you get hurt. I follow the Play Safe rules to make sure you have a good time”. This is good I think because there are set out specific rules and some of the older children enjoy understanding rules and realising right from wrong.
This is a useful tool as it helps children protect themselves in the instance another child hitting or hurting them. They know to tell a member of staff so that they can help deal with the situation. Teaching a child deal with conflict is vital in promoting resilience and independence. The NSPCC’s Underwear Rule scan support and assist staff to explain to children that where you wear your pants is a private place and no one should ask to see or touch that place. It also explains about good touch and bad touch; good touch is a cuddle or hug which make a child feel safe or comfortable; bad touch is something that feels unsafe or uneasy.
Circle time is a good venue to also look at the issue of good secrets and bad secrets. (If an adult tells you a secret which makes you feel scared and anxious then this is a bad secret that you shouldn’t keep but if it is a good secret that you get excited about then its ok to keep the secret). I think it is so important for us to teach the children in the setting that they can trust us and tell us anything they feel scared or anxious about and that we can help them deal with this situation.
Parents are fully supportive of this and participate by continuing this at home which supports any learning and confirms this for the child.
Sources: NSPCC website.
Action for Children.