Resilience is the ability to not only cope and handle adversity, but to also be able to learn from it and adapt to life stressors and challenging life situations. There is no simple answer as to why one person is resilient and another has difficulty coping. What we do know is that it is a critical skill along with self-regulation that needs to be nurtured in all children and youth.

Self-regulation is the ability to control and manage our thoughts, feelings and emotions in relation to the demands put on us. Research shows self-regulation is a good predictor of resilience. In fact, the relationship is significant as this study published in Frontiers in Psychology by Professor Raquel Artuch-Garde notes “by working on self-regulation skill of students at risk, we encourage their resilient capacity to build an optimistic life plan and to persevere.” The study remarks that this relationship between resilience and self-regulation is as important, if not more so, than the intellectual facets involved in the educational process of students.

Self-regulation – What is involved and why?

Self-Regulation Skills: Why They Are Fundamental by Committee for Children

Self-regulation begins to show itself in early childhood as children begin to show social awareness of others as they learn to begin to comply with simple demands in such ways as playing cooperatively, sharing with others and stopping behaviours upon request as well as finding ways to calm and soothe themselves. Essentially, self-regulation begins externally with requests from others and observing specific strategies modelled by important people in their lives. This process of compliance, imitating and practicing what is heard and observed, becomes internalized in the ways a child reacts, monitors and regulates their own behaviour. It is probably obvious that the more a child agrees with a request, the more likely they are to comply and to incorporate it into their own self-regulatory behaviours. In fact, demanding compliance or the use of punishments and rewards to control behaviour can be counterproductive. Something to consider – strategies that involve children in the establishment of rules and guidelines along with explaining the reasoning behind them are generally more likely to be effective. While probably more time consuming initially, in the long run a child is more likely to voluntarily assimilate them into their own self-regulation responses. For more information on self-regulation, read Calm, Happy and Alert by Dr. Stuart Shanker.

A CBC news article reports on the concern schools and teachers are expressing as to the impact of the overwhelming stress children are dealing with in their lives today and behaviours they are observing. In response, school districts in Canada are increasingly incorporating self-regulation techniques into their daily teaching routine.

The article features comments from Dr. Stuart Shanker described as “the pied piper of self-regulation in the schools”. The following video was taped at the Global Gathering for Early Childhood Conference 2013 where Dr. Shanker discussed strategies on self-regulation. The video is lengthy but very worthwhile viewing.

Let’s Talk About Resiliency!

Strategies for Self-Regulation by Dr. Stuart Shanker

This course is so hard and I have two more just as bad! What does she mean when she says that? The high school I am going to next year is so big and I don’t know anyone! My parents are divorcing and I feel so pulled between them! I don’t want to be this fat – everyone makes fun of me! My girlfriend just broke up with me – what am I going to do – she is my whole life! She use to be my best friend and now all she cares about is being in the “in crowd” – I can’t stand her now!

These refrains are nothing new to hear from teenagers and certainly are ones we have all faced growing up. We can continue to list many more similar ones just with different words depending on the age of the child and they will all be familiar words to our ears.

What is different today is the growing impact of our fast-paced world, technology and social media on our society and especially our children. It is why it is so important to provide children with the resiliency skills they need to deal with negative and stressful situations. Starting early working on self-regulation with children sets the stage for their ability to cope with life’s inevitable obstacles, learn from the experience and bounce forward – in other words, being resilient.

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