The road to resilience...
I recently met an old friend whose son Tom had breezed through his school career, amassing sporting and academic glories but at the end of his first year at University was devastated by failure in one exam. Tom had no strategies to deal with his first real set back; his instinct was to give up.
It made me think about the grounding we give our girls to develop the resilience they need to succeed in an increasingly challenging world. Resilience has been a key concept in child development for many years, particularly in the context of under privileged children. But everyone faces adversities; no one is exempt and the capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by or even transformed by the adversities of life does not magically develop in the middle classes anymore than any other social group.
Academic research shows that there are specific factors that promote resilience such as trusting relationships, emotional support outside the family, self-esteem, encouragement of autonomy, hope, responsible risk taking, a sense of being lovable, school achievement and a sense of morality.
Some children are born with a genetic make-up which lends itself to a resilient outlook but we as teachers aim to promote that attitude in all by providing the warm and supportive framework which encourages independence and risk taking and promotes self esteem. We want our girls to have a go and, if it isn’t right the first time, to be prepared to bounce back and try again.
There are times when there are big issues to face such as bereavement or divorce but there are many smaller challenges which go on in school which if handled sensitively can start to produce the qualities of resilience that our girls will need to face the truly tough problems. Inevitably in the allocation of team places or production parts there may be some disappointments. It is vital that we as schools provide opportunities for all but not every activity will be suitable for every girl. We need to equip our girls with the personal qualities which will allow them to rationalise small setbacks and move on. That is life.
Parents can support our drive to develop our strong, independent girls in many small ways. If your daughter has worries about any changes or other issues at school, empathise of course but promote her independence and autonomy; reassure her that school will help and she can talk to a teacher. Change can be seen as a new challenge and chance to succeed. Your daughter takes her lead from you; if you look as if you will burst into tears on the first day of term, she will feel she should be crying too! Resilient parents make for resilient girls!
We live in demanding times. Our girls need to be ready for that world. The girls need to realise that not every success is immediate and often the most precious achievements come after perseverance and hard work.
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