The Definition of Resilience
Resilience is a word that is often heard these days. It has even been used to refer to pantyhose. However, if you would like to use the term as a professional, you are probably wondering what it really means. Is it bouncing back? Is it a steeling process? Is it a personality type? What exactly does this word mean? When I hear a professional use it or if I myself use it, to what exactly is it referring?
When resilience research is being conducted or referred to, an operational definition is probably being used. For example, educational resilience is a certain grade point average and ratings of social competence. On the other hand, resilience in an AIDS or cancer patient is staying alive. Additionally, for the cancer patient it could mean staying in remission.
But what about an overall definition of resilience? What does the term mean in general? Over the last few years, some researchers on the topic have tried to capture the true essence of the word.
In 1984, Garmezy, Masten, and Tellegen operationalized resilience in one of their earlier projects as, “manifestations of competence in children despite exposure to stressful events.” In 1985, Rutter defined resilience as facing “. . . stress at a time and in a way that allows self-confidence and social competence to increase through mastery and appropriate responsibility.” In 1994, Masten defined resilience in this manner: “Resilience in an individual refers to successful adaptation despite risk and adversity.” She goes on to say, “resilience refers to a pattern over time, characterized by good eventual adaptation despite developmental risk, acute stressors, or chronic adversities.” In 1995, Gordon defined resilience this way: “Resilience is the ability to thrive, mature, and increase competence in the face of adverse circumstances. These circumstances may include biological abnormalities or environmental obstacles. Further, the adverse circumstances may be chronic and consistent or severe and infrequent. To thrive, mature, and increase competence, a person must draw upon all of his or her resources: biological, psychological, and environmental.”
These represent some of the best attempts at defining resilience. They are created by some of the leading researchers in the field. The last two are contemporary and take advantage of some of the latest research.
These definitions have practical applications. What they mean to the practitioner is that some children who are exposed to chronic or severe stress will turn out competent. These children will successfully adapt over time. These children will need tremendous biological, psychological, and environmental resources in order to do this. These children cannot do it themselves. They need love, care, and support not only from their parents, but from educational personnel and other community adults as well.
A Few Cautions
Resilience is being competent despite exposure to severe or chronic adversities. This may seem simple at first, but it is not. This is because competence changes over time. Competence is measured by developmental milestones that change over time. The definition of competence for a baby is not the same as the definition of competence for an adult. A baby need only cry in a manner which gets its needs met. An adult needs to find a means of financial support, intimate relationships, and a manner for giving back to society. Therefore, a person may display resilience in one phase of development and not in another.
The definition is also not simple because resilience is contextual. The individual characteristics and environmental factors that lead to resilience in one context may not lead to resilience in another. For instance, academic resilience may be related to a certain set of individual characteristics and environmental factors. However, these same factors and characteristics may not equal emotional resilience. Different kinds of resilience are related to different kinds of support.
The definition is not simple because resilience is complex. It takes personal characteristics such as social skills and environmental factors such as mentoring to create the resilience phenomenon. Resilience does not just come from the person. Additionally, it draws on biological (temperament) and psychological (internal locus of control) characteristics of the person. The environment’s role cannot be forgotten. Environmental factors also come into play. People, opportunities, and atmospheres all add to the resilience equation. A resilient personality is not sufficient. It takes the person and his or her environment.
The definition is also deceptively simple for another reason. Great sacrifice is made and pain is endured for a person to display resilience. Resilient people face tremendous stress and adversity. Resilience is often accompanied by emotional difficulties. There are also stress related health problems in adulthood. Resilience, competence despite severe or chronic adversity, has a cost (emotional problems and health problems). However, the accomplishments that accompany resilience are not minuscule.
Personal Characteristics Related to Resilience
You hear a lot about resilient people, but what are they really like? Who are the resilient? How do they act? What can you expect from them? How do you know one when you meet one? Are they real? Are they superheroes? Do they really exist? Just who are they?
This is a complicated question. There is no profile of a resilient person or a resilient personality. There are some common characteristics that resilient people share. These characteristics show up in infancy and continue until adulthood. It is also possible to display resilient characteristics in one phase of development and not in another. Some characteristics, such as sociability, are stable throughout all phases of development. Other characteristics, such as the ability to control feeding behavior, are more specific to one developmental phase or another. One thing that resilient people do share, however, is the fact that they have overcome extreme or chronic stress or adversity. You may notice these characteristics in other people, however, if they have not overcome extreme or chronic stress or adversity they are not resilient.
The Early Years
People who overcome extreme or chronic stress or adversity display certain characteristics. These characteristics appear in infancy and continue through adulthood. To begin with infancy, resilient infants are active, energetic, and easy going. They can elicit positive responses from other people; they have an easy temperament (Gordon Rouse, in press; Werner and Smith, 1982). Resilient infants are socially responsive with a capacity to elicit and receive attention. No doubt they are active and more determined. They display more frustration tolerance, impulse control, and gratification delay than their non-resilient counterparts (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). It seems they have a genetic makeup and neurochemistry that aid them (IMHI, 1991).
When they are toddlers, resilient children display an array of characteristics. Intelligence, autonomy, and sociability are present during the toddler years (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976; Werner and Smith, 1982). Their autonomy is tempered by adequate cooperation and compliance (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). They are friendly, socially responsive, sensitive, and cooperative, with a positive sense of self (Garmezy, 1981; IMHI, 1991). They are also androgynous in that resilient toddler males have deeper affective expression, sociability, and demonstrativeness than non-resilient toddler males. Resilient toddler females are better coordinated, not as timid, and interested in environmental exploration; this makes them androgynous as well (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976; Werner and Smith, 1982).
During the middle childhood years, characteristics present in early childhood continue and others arise. Superior reasoning and problem solving continue (Dubow and Luster, 1990; Werner, 1989a; Werner, 1990). They also continue to demonstrate sociability, androgyny, and autonomy (Werner, 1989a; Werner, 1990). They have varied interests and hobbies that are not necessarily sex-typed (Werner, 1989a). They are guided by a more internal locus of control than their counterparts (Garmezy and Rutter, 1983; Werner, 1989a; Werner and Smith, 1982). They have a better self-concept than their counterparts (Dubow and Luster, 1990). They display high intellectual motivation and a probing drive to understand (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). They also display mastery-oriented help-seeking behavior. That is, they mediate their own learning and problem-solving by taking the initiative to question, suggest, observe, and imitate (Nelson-Le Gall and Jones, 1991).
In adolescence, resilient children continue to show superiority over their non-resilient counterparts. Sociability, androgyny, and autonomy continue as does an internal locus of control (Garmezy, 1993; Garmezy and Rutter, 1983; Werner, 1989a; Luthar, 1991). They continue cognitive superiority (Dubow and Luster, 1990; Garmezy and Rutter, 1983; Werner and Smith, 1982); however, intelligence has been known to make them more sensitive (Luthar, 1991). They demonstrate academic behaviors by spending more time on homework and cooperating with their teachers (Lee, Winfield, and Wilson, 1991). They have a better self-concept (Cohen, Wyman, Work, and Parker, 1990; Dubow and Luster, 1990). They are less likely to commit delinquent acts or require the aid of mental health services and the females are less likely to become pregnant (Werner, 1989a; Werner and Smith, 1982). However, if the females become pregnant they can still exhibit resilience if they continue their education, obtain social support, and maintain high aspirations (Scott-Jones, 1991).
A myriad of characteristics are related to resilience. However, there are five that seem to show up consistently across the life span. These five are cognitive superiority, autonomy, androgyny, social skills, and internal locus of control. Fostering these five characteristics in children will be positively related to their resilience.
It is debatable whether intelligence is inherited or not. However, the latest infancy brain research probably exemplifies the importance of the environment (Shore, 1997). How a parent or caregiver interacts with an infant impacts his or her neural pathways. The environment continues to have an impact on intelligence throughout the rest of development (Steinberg and Meyer, 1995). What is still debatable is how much or what percentage of intelligence is influenced by the environment and what percentage is influenced by genes. However, it is important to consider how the environment can impact intelligence. This allows for parent or caregiver intervention.
In infancy, it is important to expose children to a variety of objects and environments. You can show them objects with bright colors, patterns, and contrasts. Talking to them and reading to them is very important, too, even though they may not be talking yet. Talking to them helps them learn preverbal skills and the rules related to language. Once they begin talking you can help them develop by extending their utterances. If they say “more milk” you can say something like, “would you like some more cold, white milk”? This helps infants’ understanding of language develop as well as their language skills. Reading to children helps them to become interested in print. Simple picture books are appropriate at this age.
Cognitive superiority can be fostered during subsequent years of development as well. In the preschool years, children can be exposed to reading, hands-on science and mathematics, and more advanced language. You can also play memory games and simple classification games. Children will continue to love being read to, but they can also read themselves and read to you. The counting and measuring of objects help with math and science. Listening to adult speech helps advance their language. Remembering which cards are where in a pile and grouping (classifying) objects by size, shape, color, and function all help cognition develop.
Later on, exposing children to academic subjects advances their cognition. Parents can help by assisting children with homework. However, cognition can be exercised out of the classroom as well through reading books and playing games. Games that foster memory, strategies, planning, or classification (grouping) all help develop cognition.
Autonomy is the ability and desire to accomplish tasks on one’s own. It is important to one’s social development. It naturally develops as early as toddlerhood. However, it can be fostered by giving children tasks to complete on their own at a time when they are ready for the task. Encouragement and repetition of tasks such as simple puzzles allow a young toddler to learn the process and eventually complete it independently. In toddlerhood, hand washing and putting away toys are appropriate autonomy fostering activities. When children are thirteen they can be expected to complete major tasks such as fixing dinner or cutting the grass. People who are autonomous think for themselves and make their own decisions. Autonomy is related to resilience.
Androgyny is displaying characteristics that are thought to be female and characteristics that are thought to be male at the appropriate time. It is a transcendence of one’s typical gender role and display of behavior that corresponds to the opposite gender. Androgyny is related to resilience. Resilient children display androgyny by participating in non-sexed typed activities. The males are more affective and the females are more adventurous. This type of behavior can be allowed by caregivers. It can also be modeled. Parents can display androgyny as can other caregivers. This will help foster androgyny, which is related to resilience. Children who learn to play with all types of toys and games tend to be more resilient.
Social skills are important for resilience. They can be fostered by creating an environment where all children are accepted. Including special needs children in activities helps all children with social skills. These social skills can be encouraged and supported throughout childhood by exposing children to others with a variety of backgrounds. Guest speakers in the classroom, visits to a nursing home, and tours of a hospital all give children exposure to differences and helps them with their social skills. A socially skilled person can interact with other people. They are pro-social and sensitive to the emotions of others. Pro-social behavior such as sharing and telling the truth can be modeled and rewarded, as can sensitivity to others’ emotions. Social skills include a wide range of abilities. Fostering these abilities can in turn foster resilience.
Internal locus of control
Internal locus of control is related to resilience. People with an internal locus of control believe they have influence over their own fate. They believe they have some control over what happens to them. The opposite is an external locus of control. These people believe that powerful or unknown others influence their fate. An internal locus of control can be fostered by having people, even children, participate in activities where they have control over the outcome. It helps if these activities are meaningful and related to the person’s life. For instance, infants can be allowed to feed themselves and toddlers to dress themselves. It also helps if they are successful at these tasks. After the task is complete it is helpful to demonstrate just how they completed it on their own and relied on their own skills and abilities to achieve the outcome.
These five characteristics are related to resilience in children. Suggestions for fostering resilience have been given. Hopefully, they are helpful to you as you work with children in impoverished and stressful situations.
Familial Environmental Factors
Environments are important contributors to the resilience phenomenon. Familial environments are one aspect of the environment that contribute to resilience. When fostering resilience it is important to consider how the familial environment makes an impact. Just what factors in the home environment are related to resilience?
The primary caregiver is not separated much from the child during the first year of life (Werner and Smith, 1982). There is a strong bond between caregiver and child and the establishment of trust within the child (IMHI, 1991). From this bond, the child gains trust and security (Garmezy and Rutter, 1983; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976; Werner and Smith, 1982). The primary caregiver responds to a child’s verbal and nonverbal signals (Rutter, 1985). Substitute care, if provided, is provided consistently and warmly by a family member (Werner and Smith, 1982). Female children have a kind, temperate, affectionate, and content caregiver. Female infants enjoy bodily contact and nurturance. Caregivers for both genders provide nurturance (Rutter, 1985), thoroughly enjoy the children, feel confident about performing their duties, and are responsive to the infant’s needs (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). The caregivers provide stimulation through cuddling, pictures, toys, exploratory time (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976), and plenty of activities with meaningful content (Rutter, 1985). Another study found that the parents provided responsive, accepting, stimulating, and organized care (Bradley, Whiteside, Mundfrom, Casey, Kelleher, and Pope, 1994). During these early years, the families establish patterns to mark historical traditions, like birthdays and special events (Clark, 1983).
During the middle childhood years, the primary caregivers continue to be supportive of the child. Substitute care is provided by kin in a stable manner. Visits from kin are not uncommon either. These visits involve reciprocal love relationships, which teach the child how to love and be lovable (IMHI, 1991).
These families participate in a daily routine. The family communicates well, participates in joint activities, and provides discipline. Family unity (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976) and a quality home environment (Werner, 1989b) relate strongly to competence and resilience in this age span.
Parents in these families continue emotional support even when their children are adolescents (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). They are also involved in their child’s schooling (Connell, Spencer, and Aber, 1994). Adolescent children in these families participate in regular chores, regular hobbies, and some position of required helpfulness, and/or a job (Clark, 1983; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976; Werner, 1989a; Werner, 1990). These families have structure (Clark, 1983), clear limits, expected rules, and discipline for their adolescent children (Werner and Smith, 1982).
Additionally, these families have other general factors over the child’s life span which contribute to resilience. One stable caregiver provides nurturance (Rutter, 1985), care, and adequate attention throughout the child’s life, creating a strong bond (Werner, 1989a; Werner, 1990). The families have access to good routine medical care (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). The families are connected to outside supports such as grandparents (Garmezy, 1993; Werner, 1990), other kin, school, church, and workplace settings (Clark, 1983; Nettles, 1991). The ties to church are important as these ties aid the family in establishing religion, values, positive attitudes (Clark, 1983; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976), and faith (IMHI, 1991; Werner, 1990; Werner and Smith, 1982). Religion in turn provides stability (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976; Werner, 1990), cohesiveness (Garmezy, 1993), unity, (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976) coherence, a sense of meaning, and a sense of purpose (Werner, 1989a; Werner and Smith, 1982). Ties to the workplace establish a hard work ethic (Gandara, 1982) and enables the establishment of money handling rules (Clark, 1983).
The family provides positive, constructive family activities (Werner, 1990). Housekeeping routines, hobbies, monitored television viewing (Clark, 1983), family meals, family vacations, and family picnics are examples (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). It is not unusual for everyday, routine activities to become literacy or learning events (Clark, 1983). The children are also involved in a variety of meaningful tasks where they learn pertinent skills and abilities (Rutter, 1985). Even the young children have responsibility for completing some self-directed task. The house is generally clean, neat, and free of clutter (Garmezy and Rutter, 1983).
These families have a unique set of values. Education is high on the list of values (Clark, 1983; Gandara, 1982; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). Loyalty (Clark, 1983; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976), trust, a pragmatic sense of right and wrong (Clark, 1983), frankness, tolerance (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976), frequent dialogue and communication (Clark, 1983; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976) are also on the list of values. Personal independence and individuality command respect within these families (Gandara, 1982; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976).
These families are not competitive and not class conscious (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). If headed by two people, the marriage is warm, stable, and committed (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). This warmth and nurturance is passed on to the children (Clark, 1983; Garmezy, 1993; Garmezy and Rutter, 1983). Both parents play superordinate, subordinate, and egalitarian roles (Clark, 1983). Discipline in these families is rational (Gandara, 1982) with clear limits, corrective feedback, corrective sanctions, and parents that act from a base of authoritative power (Clark, 1983). Family interactions and child rearing practices are structured (Garmezy and Rutter, 1983).
During times of stress, challenge, or transition, the parents provide support, understanding, guidance, and nurturance to the children (Garmezy, 1993; Murphy and Moriarty, 1976). The whole family turns to God, thinks positive, and looks toward the future. The parents are role models of coping (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976) who actively search for knowledge (Clark, 1983) and achievement (Murphy and Moriarty, 1976).
What can parents do to foster resilience in their children knowing the information from the research? It is important to remember that even though you may live in stressful and impoverished conditions you can still foster competence and resilience in your child.
Soon after birth, it is important to establish a strong bond between the child and a primary caregiver. This bond is created through warmth and nurturance and few prolonged separations. This bond helps the infant learn to trust. This bond lasts a lifetime. To create this bond, be responsive to your child’s needs and wants. When they are hungry, feed them. If their diaper is soiled, change it. Also talk to them and interact with them. Young babies are not born as blank slates. They are born social creatures who are ready to interact and learn. Expose babies to different stimuli to help them develop.
Extended kin are very important to a child’s development of competence and the fostering of resilience. Kin can provide loving substitute caregiving. They also provide an example of reciprocal love relationships. Visit kin as often as possible. Interact with them through other communication means such as the telephone and the internet as often as possible. Foster positive, healthy relationships with extended kin as much as possible.
Establish a daily routine and a weekly routine. Routines are important to children. Establish one early in the child’s life and keep one throughout his or her development. The routine should be flexible to make room for emergencies and other problems. However, it is important to eat dinner together at the same time every day. Clean the house together at the same time. To go to sleep and awake from sleep at the same time every day. These types of routines help to foster resilience.
Communication is important in any family, and especially in a family under stress. It is important to talk to your spouse and your children regularly. These conversations can occur regularly or spontaneously. However, it is important to talk. It is also important to listen. Be supportive and listen to your children when they talk to you. Communication is a two way street. Encouraging your child to talk to you at a young age will develop a trusting relationship. If that bond is established early, the child will be more likely to discuss problems with the parent continually.
Discipline is important to resilience. Children need structure and limits that are rational. Set limits, but explain them and be warm and responsive to your child’s needs. Begin disciplining your children during toddlerhood and be consistent. It is important for discipline to be rational and consistent.
Hobbies and chores are important for resilience. Involve children in hobbies and chores as soon as they are able during the middle childhood years. The hobbies and chores do not have to be gender stereotyped either. Involve boys in cooking and girls in yardwork. This teaches children responsibility and gives them important skills.
External supports are important for families who are fostering resilience in their children. External supports are important for caregivers of children. Caregivers and families should reach out to neighbors, friends, coworkers, and fellow church goers. Raising children is hard and serious business. Help will be needed from external supports. Build an external support network around you and your family.
Spirituality and religion are important for resilience. It helps in times of crisis and stress. It also provides coherence, faith, purpose, stability, and a positive attitude. Find a means for expressing your spiritual needs. This can be in the form of a church or synagogue, a fellowship support group, or an outing with friends who have similar beliefs. Spirituality is important for the human spirit. It can also help to foster resilience in children.
Work is important for resilience as well. Parents who work serve as important role models for their children. It also helps to instill a good work ethic in your children. Good relationships with your employer can be supportive in a time of stress or crisis, too. Advocate family-friendly employer policies on the job and in the community.
Family activities are important for families when fostering resilience. Families can go to the park, on picnics, to the zoo, or to the museum together. Even everyday routines such as house cleaning can be turned into an educational and fun family activity.
Egalitarian values are shared among families who foster resilience in their children. The spouses have egalitarian relationships that they pass on to their children. The family as a whole has egalitarian relationships with others outside of their family and they are not class conscious.
Families who foster resilience in their children value education, too. The parents value knowledge and achievement. They have positive relationships with their children’s school personnel and they help their children with homework. These parents may be pursuing an advanced degree themselves.
These are some of the ways that families can foster resilience in their children. Resilience is not just an individual phenomenon. The familial environment is important, too.
Academic Environmental Factors
Schools can aid in fostering resilience in children. They can be very important environments for children who have impoverished and stressful home lives. What school factors are related to resilience?
The size of a school can matter, with smaller schools being protective of dropout rates (Zimmerman and Arunkumar, 1994). It is important for schools to have high academic standards (Rutter, 1985) and to be supportive. Schools should be supportive of the students (Alva, 1989; Clark, 1983; Luthar and Zigler, 1991; Werner and Smith, 1982; Zimmerman and Arunkumar, 1994) and the entire family (Clark, 1983). Support and friendly relationships with school peers is important (Alva, 1989; Clark, 1983; Garmezy and Rutter, 1983; Taylor, 1991; Werner and Smith, 1982), as is support from teachers and other staff members (Alva, 1989; Garmezy and Rutter, 1983; Werner, 1984; Werner, 1989a; Werner, 1990; Werner and Smith, 1982; Zimmerman and Arunkumar, 1994). The general ethos and climate of the school is important (Garmezy and Rutter, 1983) as school can provide a sense of success at a meaningful task (Pines, 1984), positive experiences (Clark, 1983; Pines, 1984), accomplishments (Werner, 1990), responsibility (Pines, 1984; Rutter, 1985; Werner, 1984), self-worth, self-esteem (Garmezy and Rutter, 1983; Pines, 1984), experience with discipline and orderliness (Luthar and Zigler, 1991; Rutter, 1985), and assistance with developing social and problem-solving skills (Zimmerman and Arunkumar, 1994). Schools also provide participation in extracurricular activities (Alva, 1989; Braddock, Royster, Winfield, and Hawkins, 1991; Pines, 1984; Rutter, 1985; Werner, 1984; Werner, 1989a; Werner and Smith, 1992).
The importance of teacher support cannot be underestimated. It is important for teachers to have high expectations and standards (Alva, 1989; Werner, 1984). Teachers who give ample praise and effective feedback enhance resilience in their students (Werner, 1984). These teachers are better able to effectively motivate their students. Teachers may also perform as a student’s confidant (Werner, 1990) or role model (Werner, 1984, 1990). The importance of the teacher is clear. Werner (1990) found in her longitudinal study that the influence of preschool and primary teachers may have an everlasting impact on their students.
Rutter and his colleagues have probably done the most extensive study of schools and resilience (Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, and Ouston, with Smith, 1979). This study showed that the level of academic emphasis was important, especially if it was communicated by displaying student work and checking homework. The amount of time students spent in the library was also related to academic achievement and subsequent resilience.
This study found teacher behavior to be crucial as well. Students needed to feel that they could approach teachers with their personal problems. Teachers who started promptly and interacted with the entire class achieved better results.
Consistent group disciplinary standards produced fewer delinquent acts and better academic achievement. Granting rewards can make a difference, as can creating special occasions for the granting of rewards. Allowing students to participate in special events and giving them some responsibility for those special events contributed to academic achievement and subsequent resilience as well. Prizes for sports made for better attendance patterns. Allowing teachers to participate in or be represented when decisions about instructional or administrative matters were being discussed related to better student achievement.
Students’ subjective rating of the ethos of the school was also related to achievement. The number of field trips the students took was related to achievement. A school being well maintained and nicely decorated was related to better student behavior.
The academic environment is important for resilience. Schools provide the academic environment. They can either undermine or enhance resilience.
The size of the school is important. Smaller schools are more protective. Larger schools can get that small school feel if students are treated as individuals and not numbers. They can also get the small school feel if classes are smaller and guidance counselors have reasonable loads.
High academic standards are protective. This cannot be stressed enough. Children from impoverished and stressful homes need high standards, not low standards. However, help needs to be provided to meet the standards. Tutoring and mentoring can be provided, as well as PTA’ s that allow for participation of working parents and parents who may not have transportation to their meetings. The teachers also need to know how to teach a variety of learning styles.
The schools need to be supportive of the student and the family. This can be done by providing programs to assist the family and by linking the family up to additional services. And again, PTA’s should allow for participation of working parents by having meetings at agreeable hours, providing child care, and providing transportation during their meetings. Or perhaps the meetings can take place in neighborhood centers. These are ways a school can be supportive of the student and family.
Peer relationships are important. They can impact the resilience that a child displays. The ethos that a teacher creates impacts whether or not a child will be socially accepted. Teachers need to work to ensure that all children have the opportunity to have positive interactions with their peers.
The general ethos of the school is important, as is the students’ rating of the ethos. This atmosphere should be supportive. It should also be inclusive. All students whether rich or poor or whatever religious or ethnic group should feel welcome. The atmosphere should also be as conflict-free as possible.
Schools can provide accomplishments and success at meaningful tasks. These are so important to a student’s self-esteem. They also help students to learn social skills and problem-solving skills. Extracurricular activities can provide these experiences as well as academic achievements. The extracurricular activities that students get involved in can be related to governance. These are important and meaningful activities. They help the ethos and the general decision-making. They also give students real responsibility, which is related to resilience.
This all contributes to a student’s sense of self. Self-concept (self-esteem, self-worth) is important. Schools can do so much to increase a student’s self-concept. Success at meaningful tasks should be rewarded. It also helps if specific feedback is given that delineates just how the student’s abilities and characteristics contributed to the success.
Discipline is very important. The order and discipline that the students receive at school help them to learn to live in society. However, discipline practices should be applied evenly. Athletes and math whizzes should get the same discipline. All students, no matter what their ethnic or religious group, should get the same discipline practices.
Teachers are so very important for fostering resilience. They must have high standards for their students-all of their students. Very specific praise and feedback when it is due is important. The praise and feedback should be very direct in outlining just what characteristics and abilities of the student led to the success. How the teacher manages his or her classroom is also important. He or she must start on time and interact with all students evenly and justly. The teacher must act as a confidant. This is because these students may have chaotic lives. There may not be any other adults for them to count on. The teacher must be a role model. This is because the other adults in the student’s life may not be appropriate role models. It is also important for teachers to take part in decision-making. They are on the front line every day working with the students. Allow them to participate in governance, especially if it is related to instruction or students.
There are certain categories of environmental protective factors that are related to resilience in children. According to Emmy Werner (1994), these environmental protective factors are parenting styles that reflect competence and enhance self-esteem, other supportive adults who foster trust and act as gatekeeper to the future, and the opening up of opportunities at major life transitions. Sir Michael Rutter (1995) has a list of resilience fostering categories as well. They are as follows: reducing the personal impact of risk experiences, stopping negative chain reactions, promoting self-esteem, opening up positive opportunities, and the positive cognitive processing of negative experiences.
Promoting self-esteem is mentioned by both researchers as a method for fostering resilience. This speaks to the potency of this method for fostering resilience. Children in impoverished and stressful situations need their self-esteem promoted as this is related to resilience. This can be done by showing them in a concrete manner what their strengths are. Specific and directed praise and encouragement for their competencies and accomplishments is also helpful. For example, if you have students who may not be extremely intelligent but study hard, tell them that their hard work led to their good grade. If you have students who have great social skills, tell them that their diplomatic ways could lead to them becoming leaders of the student body.
Opening up of opportunities
The opening up of positive opportunities is also mentioned by both researchers. This speaks to the potency and importance of this method of fostering resilience. It is important to provide opportunities at life’s transition points. Some important opportunities to open up at the appropriate time are as follows: the possibility of mentoring during an educational transition, the opportunity of a job after formal education is complete, and the possibility of positive social interaction with potential partners when intimacy versus isolation is the current psychosocial crisis. Opportunities need to be provided after failure, for instance the possibility of tutoring when educational achievement is low or the provision of a job or continuing education after pregnancy.
Other supportive adults
Children in impoverished and stressful situations need other adults besides parents to offer advice and assistance with their lives. Their parents may or may not be able to help them with all problems and occasions. They especially need emotional support, another trusting relationship, and information and advice about the future. This other adult may work in an educational setting, spiritual setting, or they may be extended kin.
Reducing the impact of risk
Risk can be neutralized by impacting the situation directly or altering exposure to it. If a person is hungry, give them some food. Parental monitoring and supervision can reduce the risk of juvenile delinquency. Additionally, not involving children directly in spousal divorce conflict lessens children’s risk exposure to adverse outcomes. There are other potential methods for reducing the impact of risk. For example, if your special needs child has an unsupportive teacher, you could request that your child be moved to a classroom with a more supportive teacher.
Stopping negative chain reactions
One negative event can lead to another negative event. For instance, a female getting pregnant in high school can lead to dropping out for both parents and securing low wage jobs. However, this is not a positive step and it can be avoided. A pregnant female can stay in school, along with the male parent, join a parenting program, and obtain a support network. Taking these steps can stop the negative chain of events that could happen after teenage pregnancy. There are other negative events that can spiral, but they can be stopped. For example, being expelled from school can be followed by homework and class notes being sent home so that the student doesn’t fall behind in classes.
Positive cognitive processing
Negative events are sometimes seen as positive in retrospect. This may actually be a protective factor. It is best to accept the negative, not deny it, but to focus on the positive aspects and incorporate them into your personal schema. This is usually done automatically by resilient people as the negative event is remembered years later. However, it is possibly helpful to people going through a negative experience to focus on the positive while they are going through it. This may be protective, too.