February 10, 2022
More than just a word, “resilience” is a measurable area of growth. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of threat.” According to research, two thirds of any given human population demonstrates resilience through a continued ability to function after traumatic events such as 9/11. Maybe some resilience comes from a natural tendency or family culture to be optimistic — it’s not totally clear yet. But professionals have little doubt that you can build resilience, in young people especially, by adopting a growth mindset. Tools from Y4Y’s Trauma-Informed Care Click & Go, and courses in Stages of Child and Adolescent Development and Social and Emotional Learning, can help your program be intentional in nurturing resilience in your students.
A Foundation of Understanding
Your staff members probably have amazing insights and observations about child psychology after working with students in your program and previous jobs. But what kind of formal training on this topic has taken place to ensure your program offers the best individualized approach to building resilience? Here are some useful Y4Y tools and short trainings to start conversations around understanding what makes students tick:
- Understanding Development and Connecting With Children Training to Go. You can conduct this training with staff on your favorite internet platform while they sip hot cocoa at home on the couch. You’ll cover why connections with adults are so important to healthy child development, and identify strategies for building those positive, nurturing relationships with students of different ages.
- Meet students where they are developmentally when you understand where they are. Consult the Y4Y Child and Adolescent Development Matrix for those basics.
- Armed with this foundation, introduce staff to the five skill domains of social and emotional learning, then start conversations about how those skills relate to building resilience. For example, beginning with building self-awareness, talk with staff about how they’re developing a safe and welcoming environment for students to be open and honest about how they’re feeling.
- The Introduction to Social and Emotional Learning Training to Go will expand on this conversation.
- Have staff review the Y4Y Background on Trauma Research Brief to understand the threat that trauma poses to lifelong health if intervention and supports are unavailable to a child. For even more understanding, check out the Y4Y Professional Development to Teach Students of Trauma Book List.
Time to Implement
Use these Y4Y tools to put interventions into practice within your program space:
- Start by ensuring a positive environment with Y4Y’s observation checklist.
- Remembering that social and emotional skill-building is key to nurturing resilience, train staff with the Integrating Social and Emotional Learning Training to Go, and check out the Social Emotional Learning Activity Intentional Design Planner.
- Don’t forget your partners in nurturing resilience: parents and the students themselves! You can customize the observation logs and, for older students, the self-assessments, in the Assess and Reflect category of Y4Y’s stages of child and adolescent development tools. That customization can emphasize working together to set student-specific social and emotional goals according to the challenges each child is facing in their home or community.
- The Y4Y Teaching Resilience Book List and Student Trauma Book List offer descriptions of many developmentally appropriate books to read with students for inspiration. Introducing your students to characters who meet with hard times and pull through stronger and wiser is a great way to indirectly nurture resilience. Ask your school or community librarian if they have other suggestions with this goal in mind.
- Y4Y also offers a tool, Activities and Practices for Managing Stress, with simple ideas on proven methods.
Some of your success in nurturing resilience will be evident. The child who lost a beloved grandparent begins to smile and laugh again. The child who was in a car accident realizes that playing out his experience gains him attention and awe from peers who ask questions. Maybe he even shares his fears out loud, building his skills of self-awareness and his peers’ skills in social awareness and relationships skills through empathy. Be sure you’re noting these observations with Y4Y tools and planning for ways to measure the resilience more formally that you’ve nurtured in students.
- Review the Y4Y Rubric for Assessing Social and Emotional Competencies and be sure staff understand how best to use this tool with students.
- Download and adapt the Student Assess and Adapt Checklist from Y4Y’s course on student voice and choice to emphasize those personal growth goals.
- If your observations give you cause for concern, consult the Y4Y podcasts on trauma-informed strategies and what it means to be a mandated reporter.
Turn to Nature to Nurture Resilience
Just as those picture book characters show students different ways to persevere, you can turn to nature to nurture resilience in your students. Consider forest fires. In our limited view, we think of fire as needless destruction, and in many cases, perhaps it does have unnecessary human causes. However, even before forests became a habitat for humans, they had adapted to fire. They depend on a cycle of fire and regrowth to remain healthy. Every student, whether they’re living with mild stress to full-blown crisis, can remember this: From the ashes comes new, stronger growth.