Foundations for building resilience

As the colder months approach more and more issues seem to arise with students. Whether it is illness, friendship conflicts, slower progress with learning, problems at home or a myriad of other concerns the middle months of the year can be tiring for students and school staff. 

resilience-listTo help you and your students beat the ‘winter blues’ the next few blogs we will focus on building student resilience.

As you know, building resilience in children can help them to cope with stressful situations or events. Many different programs exist to support school staff to ‘teach’ resilience. However what is often not emphasised is the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy lifestyle is integral to being resilient, without it children and adults will find it difficult to cope with life’s challenges.

Psych4Schools originally developed this list for Michael Grose’s the Parenting ideas magazine but we think it’s so important that we are publishing it here too.

Please share these tips with your students their parents and caregivers.

Four foundations for building resilience

  1. A set bedtime that allows for 8-12 hours of sleep each night. Adequate sleep plays a major factor in a child’s wellbeing and their ability to cope and learn. The foundation for healthy sleep patterns are set by having a routine of going to bed and waking at the same time each day, allowing for the recommended amount of sleep for the child’s age. Children aged 5 to 12 need approximately 10-12 hours sleep per night; while those aged 12 to 15 need eight to 10 hours. For example, an appropriate bedtime for an 11 year old might be 8:00pm with lights out by 8:30pm. No screens (computer, TV, DVD, electronic games, or phones) should be allowed once the child is in bed. Parents who establish this rule early will assist children to maintain healthy sleep patterns later during adolescence. For strategies for children who find going to sleep difficult, members can see advice provided in the Psych4Schools website’s Forum section.
  2. A healthy balanced diet. Children who eat a balanced diet including recommended serves of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and high quality meat and fish are less likely to suffer from depression and other mental illness than those who regularly eat fried, fatty, sugary and processed foods. For information about the recommended balanced diet for children of different ages click here. 
  3. At least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. This is the minimum daily requirement for children and adolescents. As well as building strength and fitness, exercise stimulates chemicals in the brain that increase positive mood and act as a natural anti-depressant and stress reliever. This can be encouraged at school by having regular whole class morning exercise sessions, or incorporating more physical activity into your lessons.
  4. Feeling safe. This does not just mean physical safety. Children feel safe when their world meets their needs and is predictable. Predictability is not always possible, but it can help if:

Schools:

  • Create a fair and predictable classroom. You can do this by having set classroom routines, and being fair and consistent about classroom rules and consequences.
  • Ensure children know who they can talk to when they are feeling scared, sad, or unsafe such as the classroom teacher, assistant or deputy principal, school nurse or student counsellor.

Parents

  • Set household rules with logical, fair and consistent consequences for breaking those rules. There is no point in having rules if they are not consistently enforced. To feel safe, children need to be able to predict what will happen when they misbehave or break rules.
  • Set household chores and routines. This includes morning, after school and bedtime chores and routines.
  • Keep children informed of family plans. Where possible, let your child know ahead of time about changes to routine. For example, some children may be unable to concentrate at school because they don’t know who will pick them up, or whether Dad will be working late and will not be home before bedtime to say goodnight.

We look forward to sharing next month’s blog on building student resilience. We will explore more ways that teachers can build resilience in students.

Zoe Ganim and Murray Evely