Resilience is a bit of a buzz word in education at the moment. From early childhood through to secondary schooling, children across Aotearoa are learning about resilience. This got me thinking about how important building resilience is for our children and how we can build resilience in kindergarten aged children. With so many questions in my mind I decided to base my inquiry question around resilience, How can I support children to develop resilience and self-regulation skills which will foster their lifelong learning and transitioning, so that children can manage their emotions, gain self-confidence in their abilities and skills to experience positive educational transitions.
It seems that the word resilience can be interpreted many ways. I have certainly spent many hours of researching, and so, what is resiliency? “Resilience means the ability to overcome and ‘bounce back’ from change or from difficult life events. A person that is resilient is able to learn from the experiences, and apply this knowledge and coping skills to other situations. The more resiliency factors your child has, the more likely he or she will be able to resist negative influences”. (Healthy Minds Healthy Children, 2017).
It was exciting to read that resilience is something that can be nurtured in all children, as everyone is capable of extraordinary things. We all know in life that there is no happiness gene, no success gene and no ‘doer of extraordinary things’ gene. I believe the potential for happiness and greatness lies in all of the children, and this will mean different things to different children. Life is a journey and there will always be challenges along the way. What we can do is give children the skills so these challenges are never able to break them, by building their resilience one step at a time.
There are many ways to build resilience, at kindergarten I have started by focusing on developing our children’s ‘patient muscles’. Learning to wait and take turns is a lifelong skill that everyone can learn and it needs constant nurturing.
Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting. (Joyce Meyer)
Even as adults we need to exercise our ‘patient muscles’ in our daily lives, whether it is having to wait at the traffic lights, waiting for an appointment, or queueing up at the supermarket. At kindergarten there are plenty of opportunities to learn to wait and use our ‘patient muscles’, for example; waiting for a swing, wanting to help make bread, washing hands, waiting to cook on the fire or have a ride in the trolley.
Patience is essential to daily life – and might be key to a happy one. Having patience means being able to wait calmly in the face of frustration or adversity, so anywhere there is frustration or adversity – i.e., nearly everywhere – we have the opportunity to practice it. (Kira M. Newman, 2016)
Something that is always popular at kindergarten that our tamariki love to challenge themselves with is an obstacle course, finishing off with a big jump onto a mat. This experience is fantastic for building resilience in many different ways, including; building feelings of competence and a sense of mastery every time the teaching team acknowledges the children’s strengths, their bravery and effort to try something difficult and encouragement to help them make their own decisions.
Standing on top of the log is actually quite high, it is at these moments when faced with fear, support and words of encouragement help immensely. I have to admit when standing up on the log waiting to jump made my tummy feeling a bit funny and the thoughts that run through my mind were ‘no I’m not doing it, it’s too high’ or ‘yes I can do this they are all waiting for me to be brave’. It is the courage to decide to jump that is actually bigger than the actual jump itself. I believe it is important to let those children know, who are clearly feeling challenged to jump, what wonderful courage they are showing in doing something so brave and difficult.
When children take risks they start to open up to the world and realise their capacity to shape it. There’s magic in that for them and us. (Karen Young, 2016)
Of course once the jump is completed one jump is never usually enough, it is time to climb and balance on the obstacle course and then wait in the queue to jump again. Waiting for a turn can certainly be challenging, especially when you are all excited and keen to have another turn.
As a child I would often hear the saying ‘patience is a virtue’ or ‘have patience’ and now I believe that having patience is a real asset in life. Now I live by another saying ‘good things come to those who wait’. Having patience can make feelings of frustration go away and be the difference between worry and tranquillity. Patience is a virtue that I feel every child must develop the skill and practice.
Research suggests that patient people tend to be more cooperative, more empathic, more equitable and more forgiving (Kira M. Newman, 2016)
I don’t know of anybody who likes to be pushed in front of when waiting in a queue, the same goes at kindergarten, I don’t know of a child who likes to continually miss out on a turn. Learning to wait is such an important skill and here is a little snippet of conversations when waiting for a turn to jump;
Freya: “You’re after me Matthew and I’m after Charlize”
Bella: “Look I’m waiting”
Scarlett: “Can you please fix the mat for me, then it will be my turn”
Juno: “I’m sitting down while I’m waiting”
Matthew: “Gus watch out please, you’re going after me” he then jumps “Now it’s your turn, go!”
Gus: “I’m ready yeah it’s my turn”
Isla: “It will be your turn after me”
McKenzie: “I’m after Isla, I’m waiting here”
Blue: “Yeah it’s my turn”
What I believe about these comments from the children, is that patience becomes a form of kindness. I feel that it is important for all children to develop flexibility of the mind, to transform those negative thoughts into positive through developing an understanding and awareness about people and world around us. Te Whāriki explains this under the strand Wellbeing – Mana atua, when they state that children have a sense of wellbeing and resilience when safe, stable and responsive environments support the development of self-worth, identity, confidence and enjoyment, together with emotional regulation and self-control. (Ministry of Education, 2017, p.26).
Next time you see a child waiting for a turn on the swing, pay them a compliment for having such strong ‘patient muscles’. The world is going to be a much better place with lots of patient people. “Gaining patience can be transformative to your overall life experience. So much of life is about awareness, growth and learning – these are the things that are always going on behind the scenes”. (Leo Carver, 2017).
Mā te wā