Over and over the term ‘resiliency’ is being used in conversations between teachers, parents, and in preparation for the upcoming school year. Most of us use the term casually; of course, students who are ‘resilient’ will do better at school – both academically and socially – but what does resiliency really mean? Can parents help develop these skills? Can resiliency ‘be taught?’ In one psychological study conducted by Brock (2002d), student resiliency was determined to include specific internal behavioral skills or traits and that yes, these traits could be improved or fostered. Using that study as a framework, positive student resiliency behaviors/skills include:
1. Active (or approach-oriented) coping styles. Being able to cope and manage stress is an important factor in resiliency. Does your daughter understand that there are many different ways to manage stress? Have you (or someone you trust, or someone in your family) communicated with her about ways she attempts to manage her stress? Is she exploring what works for her and what doesn’t? Can she identify ways to problem solve when conflict develops?
2. Self-esteem and self-confidence. Does your child feel good about himself? Is he able to acknowledge positive aspects of himself in a genuine manner? Depending on your child’s age, this can sometimes be difficult to assess, given that during the developmental stages of growing up, our children will go through phases that include some natural self-doubt. However, even with this awareness, in general, does your child have a sense of their own self-worth? Does he make positive self-statements? Or, when you listen to him speak, is the preponderance of self-talk only negative?
3. Operate with an internal focus of control. Does your child understand that he is responsible for his own actions? Does he clearly understand that he determines the outcome of his everyday experiences based on his own choices?
4. Engage at school with academic self-determination and feelings of competence. Whether your child earns straight A’s or struggles to pass, what are her thoughts and feelings about school? Is she motivated? Does she feel competent? If she is unsure of an assignment or feels there was a mistake regarding a grade, does she know who to contact or steps to take to rectify the situation? A resilient student would likely feel capable of managing these situations independently, seeking out assistance only if unable to resolve the situation on their own rather than immediately seek out parent assistance.
5. Regulate emotions. Does your child react emotionally in a way that fits the situation and is age-appropriate? If angry, is he able to keep those angry thoughts and feelings in check, and then discuss with the appropriate person at the appropriate time? Is he able to identify his feelings? Control impulses? These skills are dependent on a child’s maturation and certainly can be a tall order for some! But it’s important to be aware that skill building works.
Given this particular model for student resiliency, how will your child do this year? The great news is, now that we have clarified the specific skills of resiliency, we can work as a team to help all students improve!
If you would like more information on how to help your child become more resilient at school this year, contact Amy Folger at Wasatch Family Therapy 801-944-4555.