Tip sheet – promoting resilience in children

Reach IN to face life’s challenges…

Reach OUT to others and opportunities that encourage healthy development.

five-ways2

Resilience is the ability to “bounce back” from life’s pressures and hard times. It helps us handle stress, overcome childhood disadvantage, recover from trauma and reach out to others and opportunities so we can grow and learn.

“Resilient” people have been shown to have happier relationships and are less prone to depression, more successful in school and jobs and even live healthier and longer lives. According to researchers at the University of Pennsyvania, there are several critical abilities that are linked with resilience and should therefore be promoted in children and adults alike. The various critical abilities are described below and are accompanied by tips for promoting them in children.

Emotional Regulation

Being in charge of our emotions enough to stay calm under pressure in order to express our emotions in ways that will help rather than hurt our situation.

Tip #1: If a child is angry, the adult must set firm and loving limits on the behaviour, for example, you could say, “It’s okay to be mad but it’s not okay to hurt yourself of someone else”. Instead provide them with other options as an outlet for their angry emotions such as drawing their “mad” feelings on paper in order to express their emotions safely and help to calm down.

Tip #2: For both children and adults, one simple way to take charge if your emotions is by taking 3 deep breaths. You can ask a small child to imagine blowing up balloons, filling their bellies with air then blowing out into the balloons.

Impulse Control

The ability to stop and choose whether to act on the desire to take action, as well as the ability to delay gratification and persevere through difficulties. Controlling our impulses helps us finish what we set out to do and plan for the future.

Tip #3: We can help young children develop impulse control by modelling it ourselves and acknowledging their achievements when they control their impulses.  For example, we can say, “You did it! It was really hard to wait, but you did it!”

Causal Analysis

The ability to analyse a problem and accurately decide what its causes are. This is because it has been found that what we think about stressful events or problems affects how we feel about them and therefore affects what we actually do about them. Resilient thinking allows us to be flexible – to step back and assess the problems and to decide how to handle it best. For example; “I can’t do anything right” is replaced with “I’ll get better at this once I have more experience.”

Tip #4: To help children think more accurately and flexibly about whether a situation is permanent or temporary, you can challenge their initial assessment of the situation.

Example 1: “I never get to be first in line” can be changed by first acknowledging the child’s feeling and then offering a gentle reminder like, or “We all get a chance to be first in line. Your turn will come too.”

Example 2: “I will never be able to do…” can be changed by reminding the child of past achievements: “You seem frustrated right now, but remember, you thought you would never be able to tie your shoe laces without my help and now you can do it all by yourself.”

Realistic Optimism

The ability to maintain hope for a bright future. This kind of optimism is not about seeing only the positive things in life and turning a blind eye to negative events, it’s about seeing things as they are and believing that we can make the best out of a situation. This is also the ability to work toward positive outcomes with the knowledge that they don’t happen automatically, but are achieved through effort, problem solving and planning.

Tip #5: To help children think about a situation with realistic optimism and consider the alternative options available, teach them to ask themselves, “What else can happen now?” or “How else could I think about this situation?”

Empathy

Empathy is often described as understanding what it is like to walk in another person’s shoes. It’s the ability to understand the feelings and needs of another person.

Tip #6: Developing empathy in children is done best when they themselves are understood and supported by those around them. This can also be broadened to recognising others’ feelings: “Jenny’s face looks sad, I wonder if she misses playing with her friend today,”

Self-Efficacy

This is the feeling of making a difference or having an impact in the world. It is the belief that what we do matters. People who possess self-efficacy believe that they have what it takes to tackle most of the problems they face and handle stress, this also reflects their ability to persevere.

Tip #7: This is developed through actual experience, we can help children by providing them choices that allow them to influence decisions that affect them. For example: “It’s cold outside. Do you want to wear your hat or pull up your hood?” This provides the child a sense of control over what they do but also provides an opportunity to succeed, which increases confidence.

Reaching Out

The ability to take on new opportunities that life presents and see mistakes as learning opportunities, this allows people to take risks and try new things.

Tip #8: We can help children want to try new things by pointing out “No one is perfect” and “Everyone makes mistakes. It is a part of how we learn.”

Tip #9: Adults also model making mistakes and fixing them: “Remember when I forgot to read the story yesterday? Today I’m going to read two stories.”

Tip #10: We can also remind children of what they have already accomplished, so that they can see that they are indeed growing and learning everyday: “When you were a baby, you couldn’t walk. And look at you now! You run so fast, I can hardly keep up with you.”

Term 4 Training Dates 2015

 

October

Tuesday 06/10 – Springwood RD Fun Friends

Tuesday 13/10 – Springwood RD Fun Friends

Wednesday 14/10 – Looking Beyond Behaviour

Thursday 15/10 – Growth Mindset

Wednesday 21/10 – Neuroscience Talk

Thursday 22/10 – Mindfulness

Monday 26/10 – Foundations

November

Monday 02/11 – Fun Friends 1

Thursday 05/11 – Wings session 1 Melbourne

Saturday 07/11 – Wings session 2 Melbourne

Monday 09/11 – Fun Friends 2

Wednesday 11/11 – Wings session 1 Sydney

Thursday 12/11 – Wings session 2 Sydney

Wednesday 18/11 – Wings session 1 Brisbane

Thursday 19/11 – Wings session 2 Brisbane

 

For more information or to make a booking, contact Kathleen Keighron

Ph: 0447 032 339

Email: community@pathwaystorecilience.org

Implementing Neuroscience Principles in the Classroom – to improve grades and wellbeing in students

This article is based on the 7:30pm report by Louise Milligan, 1 Sep 2015.

neuroscience in the classroom

Broadmeadows Primary School is located in Melbourne’s lowest 12th percentile for socio-economic disadvantage. However the school’s principal, Keith McDougal, stated that their postcode does not determine the child’s destiny as “where you start doesn’t matter – it’s where you end up that counts”. Therefore, this school has implemented revolutionary approaches based on neuroscience with the aim of improving the children’s learning potential and boosting grades.

All of the students wear a “learning goal badge” every day. These goals are based on interviews with students, parents and teachers and are based on each student’s individual needs. Some students focus on academic goals like improving handwriting where other goals are more fundamental, such as getting more sleep at night, eating properly or improving anger management.

This school looks at “behaviour as a learning experience”. From this, the number of students removed from the classroom and playground due to aggressive behaviour has decreased enormously.

removed playgroundremoved classroom

Moreover, before lessons in the morning, the students visit the “emotion wall”. Through this, they post their photo on a noticeboard next to an image of the emotion that they are feeling. This helps teachers keep track of any children who might be struggling and need extra attention and help. So if they see a child move from a happy to a negative emotion, they can implement a one-to-one follow-up.

Through all of this, the children appear to be showing better emotional and behaviour regulation and seem happier in general. Moreover, the school’s NAPLAN results are higher than any other school in the area and their year three results are above the Victoria state average.

Therefore, this school teaches an important lesson to all educators and parents; as learning occurs at its best when children are feeling confident, safe and happy.

Understanding Brain Development in Children

This article was adapted from information presented in the article “Understanding Brain Development in Young Children” by Sean Brotherson (2009).

A newborn’s brain contains 100 billion brain cells or neurons. These neurons are highly connected as one of their roles is communication, and amazingly a single cell can connect with as many as 15,000 other neurons. These connections are created through experience and learning and lead to a network which is referred to as the brain’s “wiring”. In the research, it is known that “cells that fire together, wire together”. So cells which repeatedly connect or fire together, will create a stronger, lasting bond and will therefore wire together.

catFor example while a child is learning to read the word “cat”, they are associating the printed word with the concept “cat” and the way the word sounds and even the relationship between the individual letters c-a-t. This adds to their network about spelling, language and reading as well as spoken sounds and problem solving. Hence, from birth our neurons allow us to quickly create connections that form knowledge, habits, thoughts, consciousness, creativity, memories and so on.

This neural development occurs in stages. A three-year-old child has formed about 1,000 trillion connections, about twice as many as adults have. The reason for this is that young children are vaguely aware of everything as they don’t yet know what Synaptic density during developmentis important. However, by the age of eleven, a child’s brain culls many connections that are not in use, this process is termed “pruning”. The connections and wiring that is left at the end of this is more powerful and efficient.

Researchers liken a baby’s perception to a lantern, scattering light across the room, where adult perception is more like a flashlight, consciously focused on specific things but ignoring background details.

See the ‘Synaptic Density’ image for an illustration of this process. However, it is important to note that this pruning process is based on the “use it or lose it” principle so that if a connection is not utilised, it will be eliminated to make neural space for the connections that are used. Therefore this is a developmental period whereby parents and educators should maximise learning experiences and foster a child’s capabilities. playgroundThis will ultimately provide children with the best step forward as they grow and develop into successful little adults.