January 22nd, 2021

Resiliency in the face of uncertainty

By Submitted Article on October 14, 2020.

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of school administrators about school re-entry after cancelled classes and a summer holiday that spanned some 5.5 months. I cannot remember another time in my life where children were out of school for such an extended time period.

School administrator feedback has been mostly positive and principals have shared that students are happy to be socially reconnected with friends, parents are happy that the education of their children is back in the hands of teachers and that their children are able to attend school on a daily basis. Teachers are happy to be doing what they love: teaching and supporting kids. Not everyone at school is as comfortable as they were pre-pandemic but the same could be said for anyone in society around the world. While schools are operating in scenario 1 – near normal, 2020 has not been a normal year.

We know that people’s anxiety is directly connected with their ability to control their environment, and it’s difficult to have full control of a pandemic that deals with an unseen virus, where we must rely on others as much as ourselves to stop the spread. People’s anxiety is also affected by their resiliency, their ability to adapt and cope.

The good news is that resiliency is learned through prior experiences. Experts have long been talking about the danger of stepping in to quickly to “protect” children from inconveniences, problems or discomforts. When adults step in too quickly they are sending a message to children that they do not have confidence in them to solve the problem themselves. While parents no doubt are trying to help their children, they may inadvertently be fostering learned helplessness.

Children need to practise finding solutions and overcoming difficulties in order to lower their anxiety and build resiliency. This does not mean that you cannot help your child when they encounter an issue. Whether the issue is related to a poor mark in class or a conflict with a fellow student, rather than stepping in and resolving it, parents should sit down with their children and help them find strategies their children can implement to address the issue themselves. By spending time with your children in this way, parents are building long-term skills that will strengths their children’s resiliency, grit, problem solving, conflict resolution, and coping skills which will aid them throughout their life.

Given that children were not in regular classes for the last 5.5 months, we know children will encounter more challenges this year than normal. Think twice before you jump in as your desire to resolve the problem may be setting your child up for more problems in the future.

Wilco Tymensen is the Superintendent of Horizon School Division.

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