Monday, November 14, 2011

Developing Resilience

Dear Friends,
     Christine Gorman, in an article in Time Magazine (January 17, 2005) writes, “Psychologists use the word resilience to describe the ability to bounce back from adversity.”  We know that sometimes we are able to cope well with change, tragedy or stress while at other times we struggle and may need to strengthen our skills of resiliency.
     The new field of Positive Psychology encourages us to develop and strengthen these particular skills.  Resiliency helps us to have an easier time in school, on the job, at college and dealing with the uncertainties of life.  When we are resilient we can adapt to the many demands of life and trust in our ability to be successful.  I have learned a great deal about resiliency from the
website.  They even have a perfect little video to explain it.  Be sure to check it out!
     Below are some simple definitions of these elements of resiliency.  There are many more but this is a good starting place.  When we (and our students) strengthen and practice these elements in our lives we become confident in all that we do - and we can help others too.

1. Social and Emotional Awareness – It is important for everyone to be able to identify their feelings, understand how to express them and to learn to ask for help.  People who are resilient express a wide variety of feelings and learn how to talk about them, understand them and gain support when they need it.

2. Self-Discipline – It is important to learn how to control our impulses and modulate our needs and wants.  Self-discipline skills are transferable so when we learn to be disciplined for sports we can also learn how to be disciplined for academics.

3. Staying Positive and Hopeful – Having a positive and hopeful attitude can help us stay strong in trying situations.  This can also help us to think of new solutions and use our creativity.  It is important to believe in yourself and to know that your presence makes a difference to everyone.  Trust that you matter and that you can bring about positive change in your own life!

4. Self-Care - When we take good care of ourselves we have more energy to think clearly and to take the appropriate and positive action we need to achieve our goals.  It is important for everyone to give themselves proper rest, nutrition, hydration, playtime and stress relief.  Everyone needs to know also how to ask for what they need and to be aware of their needs throughout the day.

5. Using Creativity and Thinking Outside of the Box – Being creative allows us to be flexible in many different situations.  Things will not always go our way and so it is important to know how and when to bend, compromise or just “go with the flow.”

6. Celebrating Our Strengths and Talents – Everyone can shine because of their strengths and talents.  It is important for students to know the skills, talents and gifts they have and that those skills can make the world a better place.  We also want them to trust in their ability to learn new things too.

7. Compassion for Others – When we take time to explore the feelings of those around us, we know better how to offer the help and care that they need. When we can help we also begin to understand our ability to serve others and how we can be connected to others locally and globally too.

8.     Celebrating and Accepting Ourselves as We Are! - This is important too.  We need to accept where we are in this moment, good, bad or otherwise.  When we and our students learn to accept themselves and forgive themselves as well, they are able to accept others too.  And P.S. it is a good start to world peace!

     In a guidance lesson I created with our school librarian at a different school, we talked about the definition of each of these elements and how we develop them.  We also read the book Owen and Mzee, which explores resiliency and friendship. We also highlighted experiences that have helped us to become stronger, more flexible, and more capable.
     We also asked students to write a positive statement about their ability to be resilient.  We wanted to affirm that they have the ability to continue to develop skills that will help them throughout their life.  We asked them to complete the sentence, "I am resilient because........"  Of course, we had many brilliant and beautiful answers about their strengths on every level.  All of the drawings went onto a big bulletin board for everyone to see - even the teachers contributed too.  It was terrific!  You may want to check out some of the resources below:

Some helpful resources for you on resiliency:  - Great articles and videos on resiliency. - Dr. Robert Brooks is one of the leading authorities on Resiliency.  His book, “Islands of Competence” is well known in counseling circles and explores how people become resilient.  His website has many informative articles and power point presentations you can download – one powerpoint, in  particular, “Raising Resilient Children and Adolescents: The Search for Islands of Competence” offers good information.
Owen and Mzee by Isabell and Craig Hatkoff – This beautiful book explores the amazing friendship of a baby hippo with an Aldabra tortoise.  The books reveals the strength of the baby hippo – who had been lost after the Tsunami.  It also explores the possibilities of friendships and the hope that they offer.  You can go to: where you can download a discussion guide for the book Owen and Mzee.  This guide is wonderful for teachers, parents and students and discusses more elements of resiliency and how to use the book as a way to teach this important topic.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss – A great book about the journey of life and all of the places it takes us – like being left “in a Lurch, “in a slump” or getting stuck in the “waiting place.”  This book presents the tough parts of the journey in such a playful and encouraging way.  It reminds all of us – that we will get to where we are going.

Best Wishes to You!
Celebrate Your Strength!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist