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What is Emotional Resilience?

Cultivating Emotional Resilience in the Early Years setting

Children experience the wide range of emotions that adults do, but their brains are still in the process of development so they can’t always make sense of what they are feeling or know how to understand or manage how they feel in the moment.

A child’s behaviour can give insight into how they are feeling. All emotional expression is a way of communicating needs, whether that is happiness, excitement and joy or anger and frustration.

(Image of iceberg)

Helping children to express themselves and understand their feelings can develop emotional resilience which allows children to process their emotions in a healthy, positive way.

What is emotional resilience?

Emotional resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ after challenges (including emotional challenges) setbacks and adversity. There are many experiences that children might find challenging such as a change of teacher, moving house, death of a relative or a new sibling joining the family.

Everyday tasks such as learning to read, sharing with a friend or being left at nursery or school can also be common emotional and physical challenges for children. You might find some children will easily give up, whereas others are able to keep trying.

Why is resilience important?

Building resilience in the early years is particularly important as children are developing a sense of identity, self esteem and confidence. When children overcome challenges, they are able to feel capable and learn coping strategies to manage difficulties.

Resilient children still feel anxious, sad, disappointed and angry. However, they can look to others for support from others and manage these feelings in healthy ways.

How to support emotional resilience in children:

Emotional resilience is not something we are born with and it doesn’t just happen over night. Children develop emotional resilience over time and with support.

Select each of the hotspots in the image below to see some ideas of how you might support children to build emotional resilience:

Educational Resilience

Building resilience within education is important because it impacts on students experience of school. This may mean better educational outcomes despite adversity, improved behaviour, increased coping skills and better overall wellbeing. But why are some children more resilient in school than others?

Boyce likens children to two very different types of flowers: orchids and dandelions.

The orchid child shows much greater sensitivity and is highly reactive to the environment they find themselves in. The dandelion children are typically more independent, less sensitive to their surroundings and show greater resilience. Listen to Boyce unpick this further in his TED talk below and consider the implication this insight has on educational resilience.

The Resilience Framework (adapted from Hart, Blincow and Thomas, 2007) is a way of working with children and young people that offers a framework for finding the best ways of helping young people to get through when life is particularly tough. You can view a copy of the Resilience Framework here.

This resilience approach gives you an idea of how schools can approach developing resilience within the classroom. It not only incorporates theory but uses this evidence to deliver practical ideas of working with children and young people.

The framework identifies five areas of a young person’s life that need to be addressed in order to promote resilience. These are:

  • Basics
  • Belonging
  • Learning
  • Coping
  • Core self

Taylor and Hart

Within each area there are activities and ideas which can help students build resilience. If you want to spend some additional time exploring how this can be put into practice in the classroom then please spend some additional time reading this text