I am delighted to be a part of Emmaus Christian College and look forward to getting to know the community here.
Over my many years of both classroom teaching and leadership in schools, I have come to understand the importance of building resilience in our children. Reflecting on my own childhood, I am forever grateful for my dad who built into me the understanding that obstacles and challenges were a part of life which could all be managed.
I was fortunate to have been brought up on a farm and had plenty of opportunity, and was encouraged, to take risks and to not to fear failure. I have a clear understanding that if I fail, this does not make me a failure. This has prepared me well for life.
Scripture tells us in different passages that we are going to experience troubles and that these challenges are our opportunity to grow in our faith and character.
‘We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.’ Romans 3:5
God does not remove these challenges as he knows that through them our character and dependence on him grows.
However, I understand that where we accept this for ourselves, it is quite difficult to allow our children to experience challenges. Our first response is to solve the problem for them, or even prevent the challenge from occurring. In doing this, we are not building their resilience.
Fifty years ago, psychologists believed resilience was somehow inborn, when they noticed a proportion of children who grew up in stressful environments, developed well, despite adversity. Now there is evidence that resilience can be taught, enabling even the most vulnerable children to learn how to ride the waves of life.
When you build-up children's tolerance for dealing with life's ups and downs and changes in mood, it makes them have a stronger sense of identity and self-esteem, and it gives them that capacity to say to themselves: “not everything's my fault."
When children are upset about something that happened at school, it is good for parents to acknowledge and validate their child's feelings, help the child talk over ways to solve the problem themselves, and take an optimistic approach. Solving the problem for them however, does not enable the necessary growth.
Children need to feel valued, respected and listened to. This helps build a healthy self esteem: a sense of personal competence, and realistic knowledge of their own strengths and limitations.
The ability to organise themselves and set goals is also important in the building of resilience. With COVID restrictions, the younger children needed to organise themselves and their belongings independently at school. Now that restrictions have been lifted we need to respect and further foster this independence.
At Emmaus we teach all children in the Junior School the ‘Zones of Regulation’. This is a powerful tool in enabling them to understand, name and manage their emotions. Children need to learn that not all challenges are catastrophic and will learn to recognise the ‘size of the problem’. As parents and teachers we need to allow them to make mistakes, but then persevere and hence be more resilient next time.
I look forward to continuing to journey with you all, as we partner in the development of resilient kids.