Resilience comes from trusting oneself as well as others around us.
2020 was a tough year – for everyone. Changes to routines, expectations, plans and most other aspects of our lives have led to us all needing to dig deep and test our resilience and attitudes. Whilst some parts of the media was keen to point to the fact that some children “went backwards” that has not been our experience or attitude at Busy Bodies. We have found that children have adjusted really well to all of the changes that have taken place in their life. A lot of factors play a part in how well children have done during this tricky time period but one of the key factors, that I want to discuss here, is positive relationships.
Scientists and researching still have a lot to find out about resilience and how it develops. Extensive work on resilience on young children by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University suggests that it is” the result of a combination of protective factors” and that “the single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adults”.
These relationships provide the unique responsiveness, scaffolding and protection that buffer children from developmental disruption. These relationships we have allow us to practice key skills such as the ability to plan, monitor and regulate behaviour which allows us to learn how to respond adaptively to adversity. Knowing that somebody is going to be there when we need them to be helps us to feel safe and secure. Only when we feel safe and secure will we have the confidence to grow and develop to our full potential.
So resilience is not built from the hard times it is actually being built in the good times. We do not build resilience by being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool and surviving. We build resilience by learning how to swim, by having the opportunity to develop confidence and practicing coping skills.
Relationships and our attachments with others are very important. Current understanding of attachment theory indicates that positive early relationships and co-regulation experiences not only support bonding and secure attachments, they also build trust. When children or adults experience this they learn to trust that people around them will be responsive and keep them safe, but also children or adults learn to trust themselves to “be ok” during hard times.
Strongly linked to this is a sense of “unconditional positive regard” where a child or person feels loved and accepted regardless of their behaviour , appearance, achievements, etc. This sese of self worth helps reassure us all that we are worthy of love and security even when things are not going well. Although not impossible to develop these skills later in life, our first relationships are vitally important to our development and resilience skills. Unconditional Positive Regard was a phrase coined by the great Carl Rogers many years ago and is a key aspect of our philosophy at Busy Bodies. It is why our Key Person policy is so important, it is why we put such an emphasis on relationships and give time and space for these relationships to develop. It is all about the “triangle of trust” between the child, parent/carer and key practitioner, when this is done right every member of the triangle can flourish. As well as the children being supporting which helps for transition back into nursery it also supports parents and carers in feeling more confident in returning.
We must remember that for some children ‘compliance’ is a coping strategy that means they keep it together while in nursery, but release all their anxiety and distress at home where they feel safest. For new and longstanding children alike, many parents might be bearing the brunt of these anxious behaviours and signs of distress at home, while all seems “fine” in the setting. The motivation to dampen down emotions and “be good” in nursery or school, though appearing to be a sign of resilience may not be healthy or helpful in the long run. This can sometimes be the reason be the reason why children can behave so differently at home than at nursery. They feel safest at home and fully able to express how they are feeling moment to moment.
There will also be children who seem to settle quickly but then after a little while begin to react in ways that surprise us. They may suddenly not want to come to nursery or show other changes in their personality and behaviour. This is where you need observant, understanding teachers who can recognise these changes and support them through it. It is possible that we may only begin to see the true impact of the pandemic experience on children’s emotional health and well being for some time and we should not rush to assume that the effect on our children was minimal.
We all need a bit of challenge and adversity to strengthen our resilience muscles, but it needs to be the right kind of challenge, at the right time and with the right kind of support to make the right kind of difference. This is why “tuning in” and knowing our children well is so important , together with opportunities for developmentally appropriate physical and emotional challenge. We all need to have the opportunity to try things, fail (first attempt in learning) and learn from what happens. With support and time with correct resources and caring relationships we can achieve wonderful things.
Resilience is built on:
· Being well supported through difficulties by people who know us well enough to tune in and understand what helps us best.
· Having the time and space to try, to fail, to learn and to get up and try things over and over again.
· Having a safe place to build our resilience gradually – to take risks and make mistakes. The love we receive is not effected and we are unconditionally loved and given worth.
· Feelings of self-worth and knowing others believe in – to help us believe in ourselves.
· Having enough nurturing relationships to create a sense of security and trust in oneself as well as others.
The more we shift our understanding of resilience as something built on relationships and connections with others, rather than “rugged individualism” the more likely we are to appreciate the value of relationships and the important part they play in supporting children’s resilience to adversity. It all comes down to supportive relationships with others, unconditional positive regard and an understanding of others.
Everyone is doing a fantastic job getting through this very difficult time. Please remember to praise yourself and the people / children around you. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it and remember that you are strong and (hopefully) have all the tools physically, emotionally and spiritually to get you through the challenges ahead.