Heathdale flower 13th September 2023

Instilling Resilience in Young People

Discover how to nurture growth amidst adversity and help students thrive through life's challenges with resilience.

Heathdale flower

All this week, I’ve heard students and staff alike counting down the days to the term break, and I am one of them! The warmer weather ushers in the hope that summer, and the looooong break, is not so far away now. With our Year 12s nearing the end of the school year, they are feeling a mixture of joy and anxiety because, well, it’s nearly over!

When things are very busy, or we face trouble or setbacks, a key character trait that enables us to keep moving forward is resilience. Resilience is the capacity to stretch and flex with difficulties and then recover afterwards. It isn’t a total resistance to hardship, like being a brick wall. It’s the ability to stretch to cope with the pressure, and then be able to come back afterwards without being bent out of shape permanently.

Resilience was the theme of the Year 10 Camp a few weeks ago. Our students talked through the value of being resilient in the context of several activities and were challenged with this thought: Life gets harder, but we can also get stronger. Resilience doesn’t deny the existence of those stretching times – but it does look positively towards getting out the other side.

To develop resilience, our students need to regularly experience some level of difficulty. Like building muscles, you have to strain somewhat to grow. Thankfully, life includes lots of opportunities for resilience (usually more than we would like!) Teachers and parents need to be comfortable with allowing children to go through some difficulties and learn from the experience, without rushing in to sweep the path clear of all obstacles. There can be a fine line between support and taking over someone else’s chance to grow.

Nobody has a perfect play book for when to step in and help and when to keep cheering from the stands, but here are some thoughts that can help:

1. Am I allowing my young person to own their own emotions and decide for themselves how they should feel in this situation? Or am I deciding their feelings for them?

2. Am I allowing room for some struggle and for even the risk of some failure, or am I making everything so safe that my young person has no chance to achieve on their own terms?

3. Do I model a healthy approach to trying new and difficult things? Do I portray struggling to master something as failure?

4. Do I give the impression that I think they should always be good at everything? Do I allow for things to be hard or tricky or challenging? Do I cheer on the effort, even if the final result isn’t what was hoped for?

Tough times will happen, and then life will change again. We can help our students to see their role in developing their own resilience and in growing their ability to get back up when life knocks the wind out of them.