Resiliency and Student Success
HVS Counselor Newsletter
The Resiliency Review
It's likely not a big surprise to parents that resiliency is a key factor in developing successful students. We know that the ability to bounce back from adversity and persevere through challenges is a big part of teaching our children how to live independent and happy lives. The challenge that teachers, parents and counselors often face is how to help adolescents develop specific skills that prepare them to rise to the occasion when roadblocks arise, rather than run from the risk.
It's first important to understand what happens to our bodies when we are faced with adversity. Karen Young (2016) explains that the stress that often accompanies a challenge triggers a chain reaction that causes our heart rate and blood pressure to increase and strong stress hormones to be released by the the "fight or flight" center of our brains. This powerful surge of stress hormones coursing though our bodies temporarily shuts down our prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain responsible for impulse control, attention, regulating emotions and problem solving. Teens will vary in their response to this stress hormone overload, but many will become extremely emotional, withdrawn or even defiant and angry.
The good news is that resiliency is a skill that can be taught and strengthened at any age. Young points out that many scientific findings reveal that the brain can actually be re-wired to support effective resiliency patterns through practice and exposure to experiences that allow students to practice their resiliency skills. It's relatively simple recipe of allowing teens to both feel supported and empowered to take on challenges.
How Can Parents Help Children Develop Resiliency?
Karen Young (2016), has some excellent tips for teaching children resiliency based on what science has taught us about how individuals learn any new skill.
Tip #1: Resilience Needs Relationships
While teens need independence, research tells us that it’s not just pure grit and perseverance that gets them through the tough times. Additionally they need the consistent presence of at least one reliable relationship. The presence of a steady, responsive adult can greatly reduce the effects of that stress-induced hormone surge that occurs when adversity shows up.
Tip #2: Add Some Tools to that Resiliency Toolbox
Being brave doesn’t mean that teens have to deal with challenges by themselves. Actively listening and helping them to problem solve through the adversity will teach them the lifelong skills they need. It’s all about your word choice when guiding them through the process. Here are some examples:
What would (someone who they see as capable) do?
What has worked before?
Have them list as many options as possible in 2 minutes, even if they sound like ridiculous solutions. Go!
How can you break this big problem into little pieces?
Tip #3: Get Moving!
Exercise strengthens and rejuvenates the brain, so it is one of the best stress busters around. Exercise is also the fastest way to burn off that toxic soup of stress hormones that get released during anxious times.
Tip #4: Nurture Optimism
Does your child struggle to see the glass half full? Practicing optimism can actually re-wire the brain. It’s okay to acknowledge the negative feelings, but then model how to look at the bright side by reframing the situation. In times of difficulty, it will help them to focus on what they have, rather than what they’ve lost.
Tip #5: Encourage Reasonable Risks
When teens show the courage to try something different or outside their comfort zones, stress that the effort and measured risk far exceeds the actual outcome. Sending the message that they’ve got this by allowing them the space to experiment with new possibilities is a priceless lesson that builds resiliency and self-reliance faster than any words could ever do.
How Do HVS Counselors Help Develop Resiliency in Their Students?
Classroom Guidance Lessons: Counselors at various grade levels work with students in the classroom setting in a variety of ways to problem solve, model and practice strategies that help students persevere through a wide range of life challenges. Preparing students for important life transitions, working through conflicts with peers, teaching specific skills related to mindfulness, developing a growth mindset and raising awareness of post-secondary opportunities and pathways are just a few examples of approaches counselors may utilize when helping students develop resiliency.
Small Group Support: Groups vary within the district according to specific building needs, but all are geared toward being responsive to the ongoing challenges that students face. Leading groups that focus on anxiety, grief and adapting to a new school are examples of the many ways that HVS counselors help build resiliency in our students.
Individual Support: Every day HVS counselors work with students individually to help them through a spectrum of challenges. Students seek counseling support for a variety of resiliency-related topics, including: conflict and peer mediation, academic concerns, anxiety and goal setting. Counselors work with students to help them develop lifelong skills that they can apply whenever adversity or challenges arise.
Tartakovisy, M.M.S. (2018). 10 Tips for Raising Resilient Kids https://psychcentral.com/lib/10-tips-for-raising-resilient-kids/
Young, K. (2016). Building Resilience in Children-20 Practical, Powerful Strategies. http://www.heysigmund.com