If there’s anything certain in life, it’s that at some point we will all encounter hardship. The good news is that we don’t have to let the tough times bring us down. This can be true for our students as well.
Emotional resilience is the ability to “bounce back” or “roll with the punches,” especially when things don’t go our way. You can give your students a better foundation for success by teaching them emotional resilience with tools such as mindfulness practice. K-12 teachers play a huge role in making sure that young people are equipped with the emotional resilience they need to get through the hardest parts of life.
What is Emotional Resilience?
Life isn’t easy. Studies show that most of us will experience at least one traumatic event in our lifetime, and many of us will develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress because of it. And that’s only taking into account life events that qualify as a trauma; every single one of us will go through an emotionally painful event, whether it’s heartbreak, grief and loss, or ill health.
Emotional resilience is the psychological term that’s used to describe the ability to which people are able to recover from these painful events. It’s a popular topic of academic study, especially when it comes to trauma. It’s well-known that experiencing trauma, especially in early childhood, can lead to negative outcomes later in life including criminal behavior, substance use, and mental illness. What may be less known is that many people who go through traumatic events never experience any of those effects.
Why is this? Why are some people able to recover in healthy ways from painful experiences, while others struggle? For some, this may be due to emotional resilience.
Resilience is the ability to roll with the ups and downs of life without being knocked totally off course. It’s the ability to adapt to the tragedies, surprises, and crises in life. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you’ll experience less trauma or tragedy than other people 一 it just means that you’ll be able to bounce back quicker and in healthier ways.
Why Emotional Resilience is Important for Today’s Children
There’s no doubt about it: life is rough for kids today. But building resilience has always been important. Being equipped with resilience helps children to manage stress. Stress is a part of life, but difficulty managing it can be a risk factor for many different health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and heart problems.
When you start teaching kids the skill of resilience from a young age, you’re equipping them with an important tool that will serve them well into their future.
Key Skills to Cultivate for Emotional Resilience
The good news is that emotional resilience is a skill that can be learned. There are some factors outside of your control that contribute to your level of resilience, like early childhood experiences and even gender. But to a great degree, resilience needs to be practiced and developed, just like any skill. The earlier you start giving K-12 students tools to develop this important skill, the more resilient they’re likely to become as adults.
There are several specific traits and life skills that resilient people share; by helping children develop the following traits, you can help them become more resilient.
To persevere means to keep moving forward, even when things get tough. Resilient people have this in common; they don’t give up. Think about how you can encourage your students to persevere through difficult tasks, academically and socially.
Resilient people are in touch with their internal worlds, and are more likely to be able to name the emotions that they’re experiencing and why. They’re also more likely to be able to identify with and have empathy for the emotions that others are facing.
Resilient people have the ability to look on the bright side of life. They’re also more able to look on the bright side when it comes to themselves 一 that is, they are optimistic and confident about their ability to get through hard times.
When life is hard, it’s easy to lose perspective about what’s important. Resilient people are more likely to stay connected to the big-picture, instead of zooming in on the hardship that they’re going through at this moment. They are more able to realize that hardships are temporary and have gratitude for the parts of their lives that aren’t terrible.
Sense of humor
Lastly, here’s a trait that may come as a surprise: a good sense of humor. People who are more easily able to laugh at themselves and at life circumstances are more likely to get through hardships with resilience. On top of that, laughter has been found to have very real health benefits, too.
How to promote resilience in schools
As a K-12 educator, you can set your students up for success by promoting emotional resilience in your school. Think about how you can foster the above traits and skills in your classroom. What would help your students become more optimistic? To persevere through difficulties?
For example, consider taking a strengths-based or growth mindset approach in your classroom to foster their optimism and perseverance. Focus on your students’ strengths; reframe mistakes into learning opportunities.
Find opportunities for laughter in your classroom. Model the ability to laugh at mistakes by showing them that, even as a teacher and an adult, you can laugh at yourself when things don’t go your way, too.
A classroom mindfulness practice is a great way to help your students build both emotional awareness and perspective. Mindfulness invites students to intentionally pay attention to what is inside and outside of them. When they really start paying attention, they’ll become more likely to be able to identify the different emotions that are inside of them. Mindfulness can also help to build perspective by increasing levels of gratitude.