You may have noticed that some people cope with difficult circumstances better than others. Some people seem to be able to overcome their problems and move forward, while others seem to become overwhelmed by the problems they encounter. The way people overcome difficult circumstances and situations can often depend on their ‘resilience’.
Resilience is the ability to
- face adversity (a difficult situation that you find challenging or demanding)
- adapt and change to manage in that adverse situation
- cope well under pressure
A person may show resilience in one situation but not in another. It depends on the ‘type’ of situation and the issues involved. Children in care have generally faced more than their share of adversity
- removal from their family
- changes in schools and the loss of friends
- lack of stable, positive relationships
With support, encouragement, guidance and opportunities to develop personal resources through school, sport and interests, children can develop greater resilience – the ability to rise to new challenges and to handle them well in the future.
Nature or nurture?
Think about some of the different people you know. Some are probably outgoing and confident, while others are shy. Some may be talented at sport, while others may be artistic. We’re all different.
People acquire whatever qualities of resilience they may possess in two ways – by what they are born with (nature) and by the effects of their experiences (nurture).
Positive home, school and social experiences can build resilience. Reducing negative factors can help to make the most of the positive factors. If negative factors are part of a child’s life, you can help by adding one or more positive factors into the mix.
For children in care, the most important factor is to help them find and hold onto positive ‘strong relationships with adults’.
Believing in change
Believing that positive change is possible, even when the situation looks doubtful, is an important part of helping a child to build resilience.
Building resilience requires an optimistic approach that sees opportunities before problems, and that recognises that setbacks can result in valuable learning and growth. This helps the child to understand they can take action to bring change in their own lives.
Tips for carers
- Believe positive change is possible, even in difficult situations
- Involve family and help children to have strong connections with family throughout their time in care
- Be optimistic and treat setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth
- Recognise the child is an active participant in their development
- Identify opportunities for children to broaden their social networks
- Re-define success with the child - it’s not about winning but about achieving goals
- Give the child some responsibility and let them know you trust them
- When introducing new options or activities be sensitive about abilities - if a child is reserved, start with activities that require less interaction, if a child is not confident in team sports, suggest something that is less reliant on teamwork
- Be guided by your observations of the child and talk to your care team
- Start slowly - building resilience is a journey that takes time