Thursday, January 13, 2005

Resilience- the ability to bounce back.

The Tsunami wave. Posted by Hello

As bad as it seems now the countries reeling from the recent tsunami will bounce back. It is amazing how individuals and regions can bounce back from adversities which at the time seem insurmountable.

However not all people can bounce back. Why some people can face up too the most difficult situations do so, while others do not, is an important, but not often mentioned, factor in human development? What are the factors that enable some people recover from extreme poverty, personal calamities, or such natural disasters as last month’s tsunami? What enables such people to make a new life when everything must seem so black?

Psychologists use the word resilience. In some primary classes I visit it is called by the chidren the ‘tigger factor’ after the AA Milne character. ! The ability to rebound from set backs plays an important role in whether children are to grow up to be successful adults. Not that personal disasters are forgotten. While 'scars' may remain the ability to adapt and get on with life is vital.

Research studies indicate that a strong personal bond with parents in the first few years sets the tone for the rest of a child's life more than any other factor. Having an easy going personality is aslo an advantage. Educator Guy Claxton calls resilience the ‘fourth R’ and sees it as important as reading and writing and maths. Children who have resilience do not give up easily; they persevere.

There are things that we can do to help children develop resiliency. It is important to help them have the courage to stick at things when it seems it would be easier to give in. When young children gain experience at sorting out lifes small challenges from an early age this develop resilience. Having a positive sense of self as result of battling through is vital, as is a having a belief that there is something worthwhile to achieve in the future. Resilience builds up over time and is best started young.

Unfortunately many children are born into circumstances not of their own making and there are many risk factors that add up to making it difficult for such children to gain the necessary sense of resilience. Resilience is strength under diversity but the multiple risk experiences that too many of our students suffer limits their emotional endurance.

It may be that this lack of resiliency is creating the school failures, or the ‘achievement tail’, that is worrying so many educational experts. Maybe infusing resiliency attitudes into all our programmes is the real answer.

No wonder Guy Claxton calls it the fourth ‘R’

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